MoD apologises for telling Afghan resettlement applicants they could only come

MoD apologises for telling Afghan resettlement applicants they could only come

The ministry of defence apologised after an investigation found Afghan applicants to a resettlement scheme were told they could only come to the UK if their documents were approved by the Taliban.

The mistake affected applicants to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme Arap, which aims to relocate Afghan citizens who worked with the UK government or helped its armed forces in Afghanistan. The MoD decides which applicants who can apply with their families are eligible for relocation to Britain.

Arap differs from the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme ACRS, which works to relocate members of the public and vulnerable people to the UK.

According to emails sent by MoD caseworkers to Arap applicants, the Independent found that applicants were required to supply birth and marriage certificates in English and bear stamps from Afghan government departments. The Taliban has ruled Afghanistan since the summer of 2021.

The MoD initially denied the practice, but an MoD spokeswoman said that the ministry has swiftly corrected the mistake and is urgently reinforcing our internal guidance and processes to make sure this does not happen again.

Arap case team has sent an apology email to applicants, stating that they understand that some of you may have received communications from Arap telling you to visit the local authorities or ministry of foreign affairs to get new documentation for your relocation to the UK.

If you received one of these messages, this was incorrect and we apologise for any misunderstanding or distress caused by this message. One Afghan interpreter was told that his children's birth certificates had to be validated by Afghanistan's ministry of foreign affairs. He tried to get his marriage certificate verified at the Taliban's ministry of justice.

The interpreter remains in Afghanistan, waiting for help to transfer to a third country before the UK. He is currently in hiding and unable to work.

The UK government promised to resettle up to 20,000 eligible Afghans in the first year, including 5,000 in the first year, but has been criticised for delays in the process.

While 11,212 people were resettled under Arap in Britain, the number of admittances fell in late 2021 after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

More than 6,200 Afghans were relocated under Arap between July and September 2021, according to Home Office data. This dropped to 732 in the last quarter of 2021. Only 743 were admitted a year ago in the last quarter of 2022.

As for ACRS, only 22 Afghans eligible under the scheme's second pathway designed for vulnerable refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees were resettled by the end of December.