LONDON: The failure of two British programs to resettle refugees from Afghanistan has forced many people to take dangerous routes in an attempt to get to safety, according to a new report.
The Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Policy and the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme aimed to help tens of thousands return to the UK after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan a year ago .
But a briefing to Parliament containing remarks from nine human rights groups described both as ‘unjustifiably restrictive’, which he added left many stranded and led to a increase in the number of people trying to enter Britain illegally.
The briefing, prepared by groups including Human Rights Watch, said interpreters and teachers were among those betrayed by the failure of the programs.
“A year after the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the (ARAP) program is still not functioning properly and is marred by persistent substantive and procedural issues,” the briefing said.
Adam Smith International had 250 staff in Afghanistan, helping to implement aid projects, who applied through the ARAP program to move to the UK. Only 24 have received clearance – which group manager Daniel Pimlott called “shameful”.
A group of 109 teachers who worked for the British Council in Afghanistan are still trapped in the country, despite being cleared to apply for relocation, with no way to escape.
Joseph Seaton, former English director and deputy director of the British Council Afghanistan, said: “The failure of the British Council and the British government to ensure the safety of their teachers has massively tarnished its excellent work in (the) country.”
One of the teachers, Mahmoud, said he received death threats from the Taliban even before the takeover, adding: “I moved 11 times. The Taliban whipped my then eight-year-old daughter to say where I was.
The briefing also highlighted the plight of many Afghans who had managed to make it to the UK but were now in states of uncertainty, with around 10,500 currently staying in hotels across the country, and many suffering from serious mental health issues as a result.
One told the Observer newspaper: “We have been completely forgotten.
“Having worked for many years for the British government in Afghanistan, I am heartbroken and ashamed (that) their flagship resettlement policies have failed so badly.
“A year later, we have not received any communication from the government about what will happen next, and are staying in a hotel. I often wonder if I would have been better off staying in Afghanistan and facing my fate at the hands of of the Taliban.
A spokesman for the UK Home Office told the Observer: “The UK is proud to provide protection to those who need it and, thanks to the new ACRS, up to 20,000 people in need will be welcomed to the UK.
The British Council said in a statement: “We know that our former colleagues are living in increasingly desperate circumstances. We are extremely concerned for them and for the well-being of their families and we continue to be in direct contact with them on a regular basis.
“The resettlement programs in Afghanistan are run by the British government. We have lobbied for progress to be made with high-level contacts within the UK Government to ensure the earliest consideration of relocation requests from our former contractors.