After a report in the Observer newspaper that emails requesting assistance were going unread, Mr Marshall said civil servants simply marked the messages as “read,” to allow Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab to claim the FCDO was clearing the backlog.
“I believe the purpose of this system was to allow the Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails,” he said.
Mr Marshall later concluded that “the FCDO’s method of processing the emails only served a public relations purpose”.
The 39-page report also criticises “extremely unclear” criteria for selecting civilians to evacuate, and explains how refugees that MPs had lobbied for were given priority by civil servants, while people who lied on their applications were assumed to be telling the truth.
It also claims a decision to evacuate Pen Farthing and his staff and rescue dogs was made outside of the Foreign Office’ criteria for rescuing refugees.
“There was a direct trade-off between transporting [Mr Farthing’s charity’s] animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghans evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers,” Mr Marshall wrote.
Raab under fire
It also criticises Mr Raab, now the Justice Secretary, for his slow response to queries from officials about the evacuations and insistence that information was presented to him “in a well-presented table to make decisions”.
“I understand that he or his Private Office had commented that as a lawyer he could not take information without the full facts in a table,” Mr Marshall wrote.
A government spokesman said 15,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan in a two-week period and officials are still helping others leave.
“The scale of the evacuation and the challenging circumstances meant decisions on prioritisation had to be made quickly to ensure we could help as many people as possible,” the spokesman said.
“Regrettably we were not able to evacuate all those we wanted to, but our commitment to them is enduring, and since the end of the operation we have helped more than 3,000 individuals leave Afghanistan.”
A source close to Mr Raab said: “We evacuated over 500 special cases, including journalists, women’s rights activists and extremely vulnerable individuals.
“The major practical challenge to evacuation was verifying identity and securing safe passage to the airport, not the speed of decision making.
“At all times, the team’s focus was on saving lives.”