A former interpreter from Afghanistan who worked with the British army has successfully moved to the UK with his family after a long legal dispute with the government. This comes over two years after he was first granted permission to relocate.
Before the Taliban seized control, Ahmad* served as an interpreter in Helmand province. In late 2020, he was granted approval to relocate to the UK but was later denied by the Home Office. As a result, he missed the chance to evacuate as Britain and other international allies withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021.
“I found that incredibly challenging. It was a memorable experience,” stated Ahmad. “Currently, I am in the UK, which proves that their decision to deny my visa was incorrect. Can you please explain why my visa was denied and what the issue was? This refusal caused me great emotional distress and I encountered numerous difficulties.”
Earlier this year, Ahmad and his family were approved for visas after going through a series of legal challenges. However, in their home country of Iran, they experienced a long delay due to a new requirement by the government. This rule stated that individuals eligible for the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme (ACRS) or the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) must have permanent housing arranged before their arrival.
Erin Alcock, a lawyer representing Ahmad, stated that it was illogical for the UK government to abandon their client and numerous others in precarious situations overseas after approving them for relocation to safety in the UK.
The government has eliminated the housing requirement for the relocation process, allowing more families to safely move and begin their new lives in the UK.
After Ahmad and his family successfully moved, about 2,000 Afghan individuals who put their lives at risk by working for or with the British government in Afghanistan have been stranded in Pakistan or Iran for months, and in some instances, years, waiting for similar resettlement. Over £15m has been used to provide housing for those who qualify under Arap in other countries like Pakistan and Iran.
Pakistan has started expelling individuals deemed as “unlawful immigrants” since November 1st. This action has been criticized by the UN as it puts over 1.4 million Afghan residents in Pakistan in serious danger. Towards the end of October, the initial flight carrying Afghan nationals from Pakistan reached the UK, coinciding with the government’s ultimatum to remove individuals who had worked for the UK in Afghanistan from hotels by December 15th.
According to a spokesperson from the government, the UK has made a bold and kind pledge to aid individuals in Afghanistan who are in danger. So far, they have successfully evacuated approximately 24,600 people, including a large number who qualify for our Afghan programs.
“We are dedicated to fulfilling our promises of bringing eligible Afghans to the UK, and any new arrivals will be placed in permanent housing whenever possible.”
Sara de Jong, one of the founders of the Sulha Alliance, an organization that aids Afghan individuals who have worked for the British government in relocating to the UK, expressed her joy at the news that Ahmad and his family have been granted refuge after over two years of seeking assistance from the group. However, De Jong noted that the prolonged wait for his case is not an uncommon occurrence.
De Jong, a politics professor at the University of York, stated that the government’s concessions in court for specific cases should prompt them to quickly resettle all other Afghan interpreters who have faced delays and challenges for over two years in the UK.
After the Taliban regained control of the country in August 2021, Ahmad and his family remained inside and avoided going outside. He instructed his family to tell anyone who asked about him that they had already departed the country.
“I was frightened along with my family due to the difficulty in our situation,” Ahmad stated. “Our job with the British forces in Afghanistan posed a threat to us. I had intended to flee from the country, but unfortunately, I never had the chance.”
Earlier this year, Ahmad received an email from the Home Office confirming their approval for him to move to the UK. He expressed his joy, saying, “That was a very happy moment.”
For a period of eight months, the family resided in a hotel located in Tehran, Iran. Ahmad, who was not permitted to work, explained that the circumstances were challenging. He added that his children were unable to attend school and lacked access to adequate healthcare facilities. Whenever Ahmad attempted to renew their visas, Iranian officials would inquire about their presence in the country and why they were not in Afghanistan instead. Civilians also posed these same questions, causing the family to fear being detained and sent back to their home country as time went on.
However, a few of Ahmad’s past coworkers are still waiting to be relocated from Iran and Pakistan. Though he is worried about his rejection in 2020, he is currently excited to begin job hunting in the UK and start their new chapter.
“He expressed joy, stating that everyone is also feeling joyful.”
The names have been altered in order to safeguard identities.