Labour: Government has ‘badly let down’ British Council workers in Afghanistan

·3-min read
Members of the UK Armed Forces taking part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul airport (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA) (PA Media)
Members of the UK Armed Forces taking part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul airport (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA) (PA Media)

The Government has “badly” let down British Council staff and contractors with many “still trapped” in Afghanistan Labour has said.

But the Government said it is working with the international community “to do all we can” to enable those eligible to relocate to the UK.

Asking an urgent question in the Commons, Labour shadow foreign office minister Fabian Hamilton said: “Months after the Taliban took control in Afghanistan, there are still many, many British Council staff and contractors stranded in the country and facing threats of violence every single day from the regime.”

He insisted “we owe those brave, brave people so much for supporting the UK’s work in Afghanistan over the last two decades”, adding: “The fact that some of them, many of them, are still trapped in the country, fearing their own lives means that the UK Government has badly let them down.”

SNP MP Anum Qaisar said: “Around 100 ex-British Council staff are still in Afghanistan having so far been denied the right to come to the UK.”

The MP for Airdrie and Shotts said those people now feel “abandoned by the country that they worked for”.

While Labour MP Hilary Benn said: “Afghans who worked for the British Council are in fear of their lives.

“I have been told that in one case the Taliban came to a house, hit a seven-year-old girl in order to try and get her to reveal where her father was.”

The MP for Leeds Central suggested providing money and other support to those in hiding.

A full flight of 265 people supported by members of the UK Armed Forces on board an evacuation flight out of Kabul airport, Afghanistan (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/PA) (PA Media)
A full flight of 265 people supported by members of the UK Armed Forces on board an evacuation flight out of Kabul airport, Afghanistan (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/PA) (PA Media)

Liberal Democrat Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) raised concerns over whether British aid is reaching those in need, saying “there are children, pregnant mothers, people about to die if this aid doesn’t get to them”.

Foreign Office minister Amanda Milling said British Council staff have performed a “really important role” in Afghanistan and “it is therefore right that we are supporting those in need”.

She said: “The Government agreed to resettle more than 50 British council contractors in August, many of whom have already arrived in the United Kingdom.

“But we are looking to resettle those British Council contractors who are most at risk.”

She added: “Employees have already been able to resettle to the United Kingdom, but the contractors who will be eligible will be based on their risk.”

Ms Milling said: “We are committed to working in step with the international community to do all we can to enable those who are eligible to relocate to the UK.

“It is also worth noting that resettlement is just one element to the UK’s Government response to the situation in Afghanistan.

“In addition to our diplomatic and international aid in the region, we are also working alongside like-minded states as part of the international community.”

She said the UK has doubled aid to Afghanistan to £286 million “which will be so essential to provide humanitarian assistance to those most in need”.

She said: “The ACRS (Afghan citizens resettlement scheme) that was announced earlier this month will provide those most at risk by recent events in Afghanistan a route to safety.

“And this scheme will prioritise those who have assisted the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan.”

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