MoD apologizes for asking Afghans to get Taliban consent to come to Britain

The Ministry of Defense has issued an apology after an investigation revealed Afghan applicants for a resettlement scheme were told they could only come to the UK if their documents were approved by the Taliban.

The Independent revealed that the bug affected applicants to the Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Program (Arap), which aims to resettle Afghan nationals who have worked with the UK government or assisted its forces in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defense decides which applicants – who can apply with their families – are eligible to be relocated to the UK.

Arap is distinct from the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which aims to resettle members of the public and vulnerable people to the UK.

Citing emails sent to Arap applicants by MoD caseworkers, the Independent noted that applicants had to provide birth and marriage certificates in English and stamped by Afghan government agencies. The Taliban have ruled Afghanistan since the summer of 2021.

The Department of Defense initially denied the practice, but a Department of Defense spokesman eventually said the department “quickly corrected” the error and “urgently reinforce our internal policies and processes to ensure this does not happen again.”

“We apologize unreservedly and continue to work tirelessly to keep eligible individuals safe,” the spokesman said.

Arap’s case team also sent an apology email to the applicants, stating: “We understand that some of you may have received communications from Arap asking you to contact local authorities or the State Department, to get new paperwork for your move to the UK.

Related: Britain promised to move heaven and earth for everyone who helped us in Afghanistan. It wasn’t true | Dan Jarvis

“If you received any of these messages, it was incorrect and we apologize for any misunderstanding or inconvenience caused by this message.”

An Afghan interpreter was told that his marriage certificate and his children’s birth certificates had to be validated by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He tried to have his marriage certificate checked by the Taliban Ministry of Justice.

The interpreter remains in Afghanistan awaiting assistance to be transferred to a third country before the UK. He is currently in hiding and unable to work.

Related: Veterans deliver harsh testimony at hearing about US withdrawal from Afghanistan

The British government promised to relocate up to 20,000 eligible Afghans – including 5,000 in the first year – but has been criticized for delays in the process.

While 11,212 people were relocated to the UK under Arap, the number of admissions fell in late 2021 after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

More than 6,200 Afghans were resettled under Arap between July and September 2021, according to the Interior Ministry. That number dropped to 732 in the final quarter of 2021. A year later, only 743 were recorded in the final quarter of 2022.

As for ACRS, as of the end of December only 22 Afghans eligible for the program’s second pathway – designed for vulnerable fleeing refugees who have been referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – have been resettled.


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