Over 4,000 Afghans who helped UK military still stranded

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LONDON: More than 4,000 Afghans who supported the British military during the August evacuation of Kabul remain stranded as the UK redirects resources toward the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey admitted that 1,000 people eligible for the UK’s Afghan Relocation Assistance Programme, along with their families, remain in Afghanistan, with charities saying the total number exceeds 4,000.

One ARAP applicant told The Independent he was “fearing for his life” and had been forced to remain in Afghanistan despite UK approval.

The 27-year-old said: “We live in fear, in hiding. If we need to buy food, we need to have someone else go out for us. We try to protect ourselves, but this won’t continue. The Taliban have more and more facilities to track us. I feel like we’ve been forgotten.

“I know the UK is paying most attention to the Ukraine war, but it must please keep its promises to us. We protected and supported you; it is your turn to help us.”

Sarah Magill, director of Azadi Charity, which has been supporting ARAP applicants, told The Independent that resources had been “significantly depleted due to the government redeploying ARAP team members to the invasion of Ukraine.”

Magill added: “There is an obvious need to expand the ARAP task force urgently without depleting the secondment of resources to Ukraine, and we ask the government to ensure that action is taken urgently before more lives are lost.”

However, a Ministry of Defence source described the processing of ARAP cases as an “absolute shambles,” with a lack of communication from government leaving Afghans “afraid for their futures.”

The source added: “The government communications (situation) is terrible. Afghans who are in vulnerable situations — some high risk — will send details and paperwork, and they don’t even get a holding email. It’s just stony silence. Army colleagues are appalled.”

Compounding the failings, said the source, is the seeming arbitrariness of the scheme, with some cases being considered far quicker than others.

It is “almost a completely arbitrary process” with “a total lack of transparency,” the source added. “When you’re dealing with people’s lives, this is not how it should be. These are often life and death situations, but the political will is not there.”