After the collapse of Kabul and the quick departure of foreign allies, Jawed and his family spent a year in hiding, avoiding the Taliban who were in power. They anxiously waited for the British government to fulfill their promises of relocation.
Jawed, a former English teacher for the British Council, stated from a hotel in Islamabad that, despite two years and two months passing, the expected outcome did not occur and they are still stuck in a state of uncertainty.
“They show no concern for their allies, disregard the value of human life, and fail to consider our circumstances. Is it rational to allow us to suffer in order to save a mere few thousand pounds?”
Jawed is among over 2,000 Afghan refugees who faced danger while working for or with the British government in Afghanistan. They have been stranded in Pakistan for several months, and in some instances, even years, as they wait to be relocated to the UK through the Home Office’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) or the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme.
Time is crucial as earlier this month Pakistan announced plans to deport “illegal immigrants” after 1 November, a move that the UN has said will put more than 1.4 million Afghans living in the country at grave risk.
Without the permission to work or receive education and healthcare, and with the added fear of being deported, individuals who were interviewed by the Guardian stated that they feel trapped and expressed remorse for having worked for the British government. They believe that this could put them in even more danger if they were sent back to Afghanistan.
Sara de Jong, a professor of politics at the University of York and co-founder of the Sulha Alliance, which aids Afghans who assisted the British government in relocating to the UK, stated that this is a tale of governmental negligence and disregard for the lives of Afghan citizens.
The UK received its first group of Afghan refugees from Pakistan last week. However, two Afghan families who are still waiting to be transferred to the UK are suing the British government. Recently, court documents revealed that many refugees had to endure long delays due to Rishi Sunak’s decision to stop relocations to the UK starting in November 2022. Sunak stated that, except for extreme cases, these refugees could not be housed in UK hotels.
It has been several months since Jawed’s family first arrived in Pakistan. Unfortunately, their visas have now expired and they are apprehensive about leaving their hotel due to the strict immigration policies. To make matters worse, Jawed’s wife is expecting a baby soon and if they are not transferred to another location soon, they may end up waiting even longer. The family is still waiting for their UK visas to be approved and they are unsure when they will be able to relocate.
Jawed expressed frustration over the fact that they are young and have already lost more than two years of their lives. He questioned the length of their lives and how much more of their youth and dreams will be wasted.
A representative of the government stated that the United Kingdom has made a promising and benevolent pledge to assist vulnerable individuals in Afghanistan. Thus far, approximately 24,600 individuals have been safely relocated, including numerous individuals who qualify for our Afghan programs.
We are still fulfilling our promises to bring qualified Afghans to the UK. Any new arrivals will be placed directly into permanent housing, if possible.
Khan* has waited more than 700 days in his Islamabad hotel room. With the threat of deportation looming, he fears the Taliban will kill him if he is returned to Afghanistan. He does not leave the hotel’s confines – not even to buy shoes or clothes – fearing arrest by authorities who have gone into hotels and arrested individuals visiting hospitals, according to charities.
“I feel trapped, like a prisoner,” expressed Khan, a previous translator for the British military. He has less than 20 days left on his UK visa through the Arap program. “I’m unsure of what to do, life is incredibly difficult here.”
Khan spent a period of two years working alongside British soldiers, participating in sieges and missions that could last up to 19 hours. During one incident, a blast claimed the lives of two of his colleagues and resulted in his hospitalization. Despite the danger involved, Khan willingly took on the risk in order to serve his country and assist others.
Khan, with tears in his eyes, expressed his loss of his father, brother, wife, and son in Afghanistan. He has spent two years confined to one room, but he longs for a new life and a place to call home.
As the deadline draws near, he expresses concern that the government may be focusing on relocating families instead of individuals like himself who have been waiting for a longer period of time.
“During the difficult times when you were fighting in Afghanistan, I stood by your side. However, now you are neglecting us,” Khan stated. “We seek justice and desire your friendship. Please do not disregard us.”
For the safety of individuals, names have been altered.