At least 650 Afghans who helped the British Armed Forces on operations in Afghanistan, are still trapped in the country despite having been accepted under the UK Government’s relocation scheme – ARAP. A written question by a Labour MP saw Defence Minister James Heappey MP reveal that at last count, 650 Afghans who registered and were accepted under ARAP, are still in Afghanistan. The Conservative MP blamed neighbouring countries for the slow process.
The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) was opened in April 2021 . The scheme aimed to allow Afghans who helped British and ISAF forces between 2001 and 2021, relocation and settlement in the United Kingdom. The scheme, which is still open for applications, has 4 categories;
- Category 1 High risk / imminent threat Urgent relocation
- Category 2 Eligible for relocation by default Routine relocation
- Category 3 Not eligible for relocation Other support offered
- Category 4 Special cases Case-by-case basis
The UK government says that more than 21,000 Afghan refugees have been resettled in the UK, with 17,000 coming before or during the evacuation; Operation Pitting, and a further 5,000 since September 2021. In addition to ARAP, the Home Office has opened the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which it claims will allow up to 20,000 refugees to settle in the UK. This scheme focuses on women and children as well as religious and other minorities in danger from the Taliban.
Immediate family members of those eligible under either the ACRS or ARAP schemes are also eligible for resettlement in the UK dependant on them passing security checks. Despite thousands of Afghans remaining at risk of murder, torture and forced marriages, Priti Patel announced that there would be a cap of 5,000 Afghans per year. This is in stark contrast to the unlimited number of Ukrainians The Home Secretary has said are welcome.
The Defence Minister looks to blames neighbouring countries for the delay. There is strong evidence this may not be true given the fact numerous charities successful evacuate Afghans every month. the 650 number is just those who have been accepted, and does not include the number who have applied, which is likely to be in the thousands. As time goes on, the risk to these individuals will increase as hiding will become more tiring, costly and dangerous.
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