Urgent Appeal for Broader Resettlement Measures for Afghan Collaborators with British Military


Campaigners are urging the government to expand opportunities for Afghans who collaborated with the British military to find refuge in the UK. While the primary resettlement scheme prioritizes those in roles deemed to be of significant risk, such as interpreters and translators, it excludes vital positions like mechanics, chefs, and drivers.

The Sulha Alliance, a charity dedicated to supporting Afghans who worked alongside the British Army, has presented testimony to the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Select Committee. This committee is currently scrutinizing the government's handling of the UK withdrawal from Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban's resurgence in 2021.

Among the documents submitted by the charity is the tragic account of a 35-year-old former mechanic, who was denied resettlement under the ARAP scheme despite his service alongside British forces in Afghanistan. Reports indicate that last month, Taliban operatives located his 87-year-old father and brutally interrogated him about his son's whereabouts. The father, who valiantly refused to divulge any information, succumbed to the ensuing assault. Before his passing, he recounted that the Taliban viewed his son as a "traitor" for working with the West, sealing his fate.

Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad is slated to appear before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to address these concerns.

Peter Gordon-Finlayson, co-founder of the Sulha Alliance and a former army captain, expressed apprehension regarding the government's risk assessment for Afghans seeking refuge in the UK. He contested the notion that those in non-interpreter roles were less visible to the Taliban and local communities, emphasizing that individuals like mechanics and chefs, recruited locally from areas surrounding British military camps, were indeed known within their communities and routinely observed entering and exiting the bases.

While it is understood that the government has indicated no intentions to broaden the ARAP scheme's eligibility criteria, campaigners insist that alternative avenues should be explored to facilitate resettlement for individuals in similar circumstances.

The government currently administers a separate initiative, the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), aimed at aiding vulnerable Afghan refugees. However, access to this program is currently limited to recommendations from specific organizations like the UNHCR.

Gordon-Finlayson advocated for a more direct pathway for individuals seeking refuge in the UK, asserting that many who served alongside British forces are now living in perpetual concealment, unable to work or support their families, with detrimental effects on their mental well-being.

The Sulha Alliance also raised concerns about prolonged processing times for some applications, particularly among former interpreters whose contracts with British forces were terminated. Gordon-Finlayson emphasized that some interpreters were released due to trivial disputes, leaving them stranded in Afghanistan due to the circumstances of their contract termination.

A government spokesperson affirmed the UK's commitment to aiding at-risk individuals in Afghanistan, highlighting that approximately 24,600 individuals have been brought to safety, including thousands under the Afghan schemes. They pledged to uphold their commitments to assist eligible Afghans in finding refuge in the UK.