The Home Office says the second programme, the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), “will prioritise those people who have assisted the UK…who face a particular risk from the Taliban, for example because of their stand for democracy and human rights, or because of their gender, sexuality, or religion.”
Capped at 20,000, individuals hoping to be evacuated under ACRS cannot apply themselves but must be referred to the Government by contacts lobbying on their behalf.
Sir Nicholas Kay, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, said: “The UK Government should accept the moral debt owed to those who helped us in Afghanistan and help them now in their hour of need.
“Afghans who have helped our efforts in Afghanistan should have the right to apply directly for resettlement and not wait to be referred in a non-transparent process of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’.
“Not all will be accepted, but they deserve the right to ask for our help. The least we can do is give them hope.”
The RAF evacuated around 16,000 people last August after the Taliban seized power.
Along with others who had already escaped, around 8,000 people have relocated to the UK under ARAP, with half that number qualifying for ACRS. The remainder have relocated to other countries.
Abdul, currently hiding with his family in Kabul having fled his home after the “brutal group” started searching for him, said: “After the collapse [of Kabul] one of our colleagues received a call from the Taliban saying ‘we have all of your details, we are going to take the government and we won’t let you live’.
“That guy was saying all our names including locations, which province we’re from and where we are working.
“This was a very shocking message for us.”
Abdul applied to the ARAP scheme in August 2021 but has only received an automatically generated email.
“We still have not received a concrete response that either our application is approved or rejected so that we can make decisions.”
‘Who will take care of my family?’
To the British Government he says: “please give us eligibility under ARAP so we can make a life without fear and threat and our children can go to school.”
“If [the Taliban] arrest me and kill me, who will take care of my family?”
Labour MP Dan Jarvis said: “Afghans provided invaluable support to our missions. Shoulder to shoulder, we trained together, we fought together and sometimes, we died together. They were our brothers in arms.
“They stepped forward to serve because we asked them to. While our mission in Afghanistan is over, our commitment to its people is not. The Government has a moral obligation to ensure their safety, but neither of the relocation schemes are fit for purpose.
“We trained officers and helped pay their salaries. Now they’re being hunted down, tortured and murdered.”
Hamid, a former member of D011, said: “We were hearing the terrorists’ bombing plans and we protected many UK troops located in the Helmand battlefield.
“[The Taliban] are seeking us to arrest us. They will punish us or maybe kill us as they killed three of our colleagues.
“We hosted [British forces] in our country, we supported them, protected them through bad situations. We stood with them. It’s their turn to help us back, not to turn their backs on us.”