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Almost 1,000 Afghans who helped UK armed forces still to be relocated, investigation finds

Thousands of Afghan nationals were evacuated by the British military amid the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the High Court was told (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA) (PA Media)
Thousands of Afghan nationals were evacuated by the British military amid the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the High Court was told (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA) (PA Media)

Close to 1,000 Afghans who helped the UK armed forces are still to be relocated to Britain, an investigation has found.

In April 2021, the UK Government established the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) to relocate those who worked for, and alongside, the UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

The Taliban took back control following the West’s withdrawal two years ago. As the ARAP scheme approaches the two-year mark, a freedom of information request from the Standard found the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has 59,032 applications left to process.

The ministry estimates that up to 900 eligible individuals have still to be relocated to the UK.

Between June 30, 2022 and February 2, 2023, the scheme received 6,394 individual applications, 18 of which were deemed eligible but just two have been relocated to the UK.

Within that same timeframe, 2,308 eligible Afghans were moved to the UK - their applications were outside the stated date.

Since the scheme opened, 131,052 applications in total have been received.

An MoD source did stress that many of these are duplicate applications and that the ministry is working to a strict criteria as to who is deemed eligible.

The MoD has also said that many ARAP applicants have moved to third countries and are not “obliged” to inform the ministry so may no longer be located in Afghanistan.

More than 12,100 Afghans and their families are said to have been moved to the UK since the scheme opened. A previous investigation by the Standard found that 10,158 eligible people had been relocated as of July 22, 2022.

There are two main categories under the ARAP scheme.

The first covers employees of the UK Government in Afghanistan on or after October 1, 2001, who are assessed to be at high and imminent risk of threat to life.

The second covers who were directly employed by the UK Government in Afghanistan, or those who were contracted to provide linguistic services to or for the benefit of the UK’s Armed Forces in Afghanistan, on or after October 1, 2001.

A third case by case basis is also available for those who were directly employed in Afghanistan by a Government department and provided goods or services in parnership with or in support of UK officials.

The MoD states that work must have made a “substantive and positive contribution to the UK’s military objectives or national security objectives” .

After doing the work, the person must now be deemed high risk or was at an elevated risk.

In addition to ARAP, the UK also launched the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) in January 22, 2022.

ACRS aims to relocate 20,000 people over the years it is operational. This scheme focuses on women and children, with the first family arriving in January 2022.

The Ministry of Defence has been approached for comment.