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The failings of two key “safe and legal” routes

London, 10/05/2024

Fleeing home is a last resort. People are forced to abandon their entire lives to do so. In an unstable world, it could happen to any of us.

Once you’ve had to take this step, you hope to find some kindness and support. Instead, those who have had to flee home so often find bureaucratic indifference and needless cruelty.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders recently released a report that highlights the failings of the resettlement schemes for people from Afghanistan (ARAP and ACRS).

These are supposed to be two of the extremely limited “safe and legal” routes to the UK and part of the “warm welcome” that followed the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

These reports can be quite impersonal and bureaucratic. It’s important to remember that the failings that they highlight can have a devastating impact on real people. At best, people’s lives are put on hold. At worst, they’re put in danger.

As this is one of our specialist areas, our colleagues Shamim and Isaac have analysed the report on the Afghan schemes. This includes what’s raised in the report, and what’s been left out. They summarised their findings for Free Movement.

A brief summary

Some of the key points are:

  • There was an unannounced pause on allowing eligible applicants to come to the UK. This was never announced, it was effectively a secret policy.

  • It’s impossible for many to provide the required biometric data as there’s no application centre in Afghanistan.

  • The poor quality of data management at the Home Office, contributing to the chaos associated with the programmes.

We welcome in particular the ICIBI’s recommendation to establish “an Afghan resettlement scheme working group to engage with stakeholders, the voluntary sector, NGO’s and Afghan community groups in order to provide them with updates, seek feedback and continuously improve the caseworking process”.

Our own investigations as well as those of Justice have previously highlighted deeper failings of these schemes that are not covered here. In particular the substantial delays in processing both urgent and relatively simple applications, the lack of clear timeframes, the needless complexity of the schemes and problems with family reunion procedures for people from Afghanistan.

Thank you for standing with us as we continue to fight alongside people who have been forced to flee Afghanistan. Together, we can continue to push for real change.


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