Sanctuary for the brave: After months of delay, the first of 2,000 Afghan interpreters arrive in Britain
Jubilant and relieved, Afghans who served alongside UK forces on the frontline arrived in Britain yesterday at the start of an airlift that could see more than 2,000 granted sanctuary by Christmas.
One ex-interpreter described it as a ‘dream come true’ after stepping foot on British soil, adding: ‘My family’s life can begin again in safety.’
He was among more than 140 Afghans arriving on flights from Pakistan and Iran after a major government U-turn, reversing a decision to keep those eligible for relocation in hotels abroad until permanent housing could be found for them.
Diplomats had warned Rishi Sunak that the safety of those promised new lives in the UK could no longer be guaranteed after a crackdown on Afghans by the Pakistani authorities had seen hotels raided and some of those awaiting relocation arrested, facing possible deportation back to the Taliban.
Darwood (far left), the ex-interpreter who has just arrived in UK with his children, during his three years with UK forces
Thousands more who worked with the UK during the 20-year conflict are still waiting to escape the brutal Taliban. Pictured, UK military personnel onboard a A400M aircraft departing Kabul, Afghanistan
Evacuation flights for those who risked their lives for the UK stopped last November but officials in Pakistan say this week’s charter flight from Islamabad was the first of an agreed 12 between now and the end of the year.
They will carry Afghans eligible under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) to the UK.
There are an estimated 3,250 Afghan men, women and children on the UK’s relocation schemes housed in hotels and guest houses in Islamabad. Hundreds eligible for relocation are also trapped in Iran. Thousands more who worked with the UK during the 20-year conflict are still waiting to escape the brutal Taliban.
The new arrivals are being housed in a former military college but government officials have said hotels may be used again, despite many being recently emptied of Afghans.
This newspaper’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign has highlighted how many ex-interpreters have spent more than a year in Pakistan, calling themselves ‘prisoners’, their lives in limbo, unable to leave because their visas have expired, their children prevented from going to school.
That changed after the Government was forced into a U-turn after a series of court challenges from lawyers for ex-translators.
In a major climbdown, the court was told ministers now agreed to ‘a change to government policy’ allowing those eligible under ARAP and ACRS to be resettled without the previously required guaranteed housing.
The new arrivals are being housed in a former military college but government officials have said hotels may be used again, despite many being recently emptied of Afghans. Pictured, the evacuation of UK Armed Forces from Afghanistan
Pictured, around 265 people supported by members of the UK Armed Forces on board an evacuation flight out of Kabul airport
‘Suitable accommodation’ was the primary option but ‘transitional accommodation’, including hotels, would be provided ‘if necessary,’ government lawyers said.
Sumaya, 33, a former British Council teacher, said: ‘This gives us real hope that soon we will be able to begin our new lives in the UK, but we must be careful as we have had those hopes dashed previously. The lack of communication from the UK authorities is very disappointing.’
The mother-of-two is one of hundreds of Afghans whose visas have expired. She faces possible deportation after Pakistan announced a crackdown on Afghans without documents.
Professor Sara de Jong, of the Sulha Alliance which campaigns for former translators, welcomed the resumption of flights, but said: ‘They are understandably nervous and confused to see some families leave on the first flight, without others being informed about the timeline of flights, the prioritisation and any agreement with the Pakistan government.’
The Government has not commented on the flights.
Source: Read Full Article