Did the UK Abandon Afghan Refugees in Pakistan?
Ever since Pakistan announced that it would be deporting hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghanis, the UK has been scrambling to evacuate a few thousands who had been promised “safe haven”.
It has come to light that the British government had actually abandoned thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. And now the Rishi Sunak government is trying to save face as its plan to deport illegal migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda also bombed.
Late October, the UK welcomed its first plane of Afghan refugees from Pakistan. Majority had been working for the UK government in Afghanistan as translators for the British Army and teachers of the British Council before the Taliban took over the country. The refugees are part of the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme or Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.
Afghan Refugees Pushed to Pakistan
When the Taliban retook control of the country in August 2021, many Afghans feared for their lives and wellbeing and fled. Those trying to get to the UK were told to go to Pakistan for visa processing. But majority became stuck, waiting more than a year; their visas expired.
Now, British authorities in Pakistan say those waiting for UK visas are at risk of deportation. UK prime minister had said all but extreme cases, they could not be brought to the UK and accommodated in hotels. But now the UK government has been forced to relocate Afghan refugees from Pakistan because of numerous legal challenges over the delay in transferring those who are eligible to come to the UK.
UK Refugee Housing Crisis
General John McColl, who served in Afghanistan, said the Ministry of Defense had made good progress in clearing the backlog of people stranded in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But there were still questions over where they would live in the longer term.
“A lot of them are being moved into service family accommodation. The question then to be asked is what happens when that is full. That question hasn’t been answered yet. I would also like to know more about the Home Office’s role in funding councils to help them receive these families.”
Luke Pollard, Labor’s shadow armed forces minister, believes the government failed to deal with the ballooning backlog. He said this left Afghans in limbo in hotels, and repeatedly put them at risk from the Taliban. “And now, Afghans are being moved to military bases to face even more uncertainty.”
The minister called on the government to fix its failing Afghan schemes.