he Government has been accused of neglecting thousands of people in Afghanistan who supported British efforts before the fall of Kabul two years ago – as campaigners calls for 6,500 eligible Afghans to be resettled.
In August 2021 Britain’s largest evacuation effort since the Second World War saw more than 15,000 people taken from Afghanistan to the UK in just over 16 days.
But, in a letter to Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick on Tuesday, 10 MPs said Afghans left behind face since the evacuation “increasing limitations on their basic human rights, especially women and girls”.
“Agencies are reporting that individuals’ temporary visas are running out while they wait, leaving some people too scared to leave their accommodation for fear of repercussions for overstaying. For those still in Afghanistan, the risk is only growing.”
Mr Jenrick was urged to honour the Government’s pledge to offer up to 20,000 Afghans resettlement in the UK, over five years, via the ACRS route.
Around 6,500 of the 20,000 ACRS places were given to people who had already been evacuated to the UK under Operation Pitting in 2021, leaving those places technically unfulfilled, the letter suggested.
These places should be filled by evacuating more Afghans to the UK, MPs urge, and Afghan family members left behind should be reunited with their family in the UK, they said.
The letter has been signed by co-chair of the Afghan Women and Girls APPG and MP for North East Fife, Wendy Chamberlain, and Conservative Sir Julian Lewis, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, among others MPs.
It comes as former diplomat Sir Lauri Bristow said the Government “didn’t finish the job” when evacuating people in Operation Pitting two years ago.
“I think we certainly have a responsibility to the Afghans who worked for us and with us during those 20 years,” the former UK ambassador to Afghanistan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“There are people in Afghanistan and in refugee camps who worked for us and worked with us and whose lives are in danger as a result of doing so, and I think we have an obligation to those people,” he said.
“They were people we depended on to achieve what we were in Afghanistan to do.”
He agreed that some of them might arrive on small boats. Afghans were among six people that died after a boat bound for the UK sank off the coast of France on Saturday, according to multiple reports.
Some 59 people were rescued by British and French coastguards on Saturday after an overloaded vessel carrying migrants got into difficulty near Sangatte.
In the year ending March 2023, 20 per cent of small boat arrivals were Afghans, with 8,429 arriving in that time. The number of Afghans arriving on small boats has been increasing since summer 2021, the Home Office has said.
The UK initially pledged to help Afghans through the ACRS and the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
Up to 20,000 places over five years were initially pledged via the ACRS, and more than a quarter of those places were allocated to people rescued during the initial evacuations in August 2021, the letter stated.
Since then, the delivery of the remaining pledges has been slow. Just 281 Afghans were brought to the UK via ACRS in the year ending March 2023.
Up to the end of March, only 14 people have arrived in the UK via ACRS Pathway 3 since it was set up in June 2022, despite 1,500 places being available in the first year.
The letter said: “Not only has delivery been slow, but the remaining places simply do not match up to the number of Afghans eligible for UK protection, leaving thousands of Afghans who supported the allied efforts or have connections to the UK trapped in the country or neighboring countries.
“There is currently no safe route for Afghan women and girls or members of oppressed minority groups, nor is there a mechanism to reunite families who were separated during evacuations.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We made one of the largest commitments of any country to support Afghanistan, and so far we have brought around 24,600 individuals to safety to the UK, including thousands under our Afghan resettlement schemes. There is no need for Afghans to risk their lives by taking dangerous and illegal journeys.
“Between 2015 and 2022, we have offered a place to over half a million people seeking safety through our safe and legal humanitarian routes. Those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, which is often close to the region or in a neighbouring country.”