Two years on: new research from the APBI exposes UK’s failure to help Afghans, despite promises
Jalrez district of Maidan Wardak, Afghanistan, photo credit: @kayhan_photos
After the fall of Kabul, the UK government set up programmes to resettle people in the UK. However, according to government figures revealed in a new report, the schemes have helped far fewer people than promised, leaving thousands of people stranded in danger. New research from the Afghan Pro Bono Initiative, a legal project working with Afghans to access the schemes, shines a light on the issues preventing people from relocation to the UK and makes recommendations for improvements.
Read the executive summary by clicking the link below:
The findings and recommendations are outlined in a new report: “Two years of empty promises: the UK leaves Afghans stranded and at risk”, which will be published later in August.
The report exposes the often absurd requirements placed on people fleeing Afghanistan, for example requiring applicants to request passports from the very government they’re fleeing or have to dangerously cross borders in order to submit paperwork for the UK Government. The report also raises concerns about delays on people’s applications due to lack of proper resourcing by the Government to make decisions quickly.
Even in the most straightforward cases decisions are still hugely delayed. The project is representing a mother and daughter, just nine years old, who are stuck in Afghanistan, living in hiding and unable to go to school as a lone girl. They're desperate to reunite with their husband and father, who is a recognised refugee in the UK. Their application for family reunion was submitted in July 2022, and they then had to make a dangerous border crossing to the nearest Visa Application Centre to submit paperwork for the UK government a few weeks later.
They've had no response since and expedition requests have been refused, leaving the family torn apart and suffering the mental health impacts of prolonged separation and living in fear.
The Afghan Pro Bono Initiative makes a number of recommendations to the UK Government, so it can fulfil its promise to Afghans:
To ensure the timely processing of applications: delays and slow decision making are leaving people in dangerous situations and separated from loved ones
To provide safe and secure biometric enrolment: people are currently being forced to take huge risks to collect and submit the evidence that the UK requires
To expand concessions on document flexibility: people who have fled their homes and are in hiding will struggle to gather all of their official documents, the UK’s schemes should be sympathetic to this
To expand the scope for family reunion: this is currently needlessly restrictive. The presence of loved ones is one of the most important factors in determining how well people settle into their new communities
To broaden the eligibility of ACRS, one of the government’s schemes: an arbitrary cap on the scheme has excluded a large number of eligible individuals. It also doesn’t currently include a number of vulnerable groups, for example LGBT individuals and the Hazaras.
Mariana D'Arcadia, APBI Project Coordinator said: “People fleeing Afghanistan have often faced enormous trauma and hardship and many remain in danger. The resilience and bravery that they’ve shown in getting to the point where they can apply to be resettled in the UK is enormous. The last thing they expect at this point is to be stopped by the UK’s red tape.” “They believed that the UK government’s promises of protection were made in good faith. With a few small changes, the government can ensure that people get the safety they were offered.” Case study Mariana explained: “our clients were undocumented unaccompanied minor refugee children surviving alone in Pakistan who had suffered kidnap and torture. Their only living relative was in the UK, and they were applying to be reunited. The Home Office did not consider this ‘serious and compelling circumstances’, stating in the refusal that their situation was "no different to other Afghanistan nationals in Pakistan”. ENDS Notes to editors: About the Afghan Pro Bono Initiative The Afghan Pro Bono Initiative is a collaboration between RLS, Safe Passage International and 14 leading law firms. The initiative supports people fleeing Afghanistan to be resettled in the UK through family reunion and by accessing the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP). The project includes a strong community engagement and research element, building links to Afghan community groups. About RLS (Refugee Legal Support) RLS is a team of frontline asylum lawyers who assist displaced people with vital legal advice and support. Our British, Greek and other European lawyers run projects in the UK, Greece and Northern France and specialise in asylum claims in Greece, family reunion in the UK and EU and helping people fleeing Afghanistan access safe routes to the UK. For media enquiries, please contact Efi at firstname.lastname@example.org About Safe Passage International Safe Passage International’s legal teams in France, Greece and the UK help child refugees reunite with their families through a safe route to a place where they can rebuild their lives. We specialise in providing free advice and legal representation to unaccompanied refugee children and separated. We also campaign for change and the opening of safe routes for refugees, so no one has to take a dangerous journey to reach protection. For media enquiries, please contact Claude at email@example.com