THE UK government has decided to reverse its policy on the repatriation of Afghans living in Pakistan and Iran, who are eligible for asylum, The Independent has reported.
According to the report, around 3,000 Afghans, many of whom worked for the British army, were evacuated to be provided residence in the UK following the Afghan Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021. They have been stuck in Pakistan since last year when the UK authorities made accommodation arrangements a prerequisite for repatriation. Hundreds are also trapped in Iran waiting for the relocation.
The UK government has pledged to move all Afghans eligible for resettlement even without a confirmed accommodation before coming to Britain, as per the British newspaper.
The decision came after Pakistan issued an ultimatum to all undocumented foreign nationals to leave by Nov 1 or risk deportation. British diplomats posted in the two countries have “explicitly warned” their government that refugees could not be protected from arrests and deportation, The Independent reported.
Two Afghans, eligible for the relocation, have also filed a case against the UK government.
During the hearing on Friday, Lisa Giovannetti KC, on behalf of the UK government, informed the court that a decision has been made to “change to government policy” and “allow ARAP cases and ACRS, those eligible under those schemes to be resettled to the UK without a prior requirement for settled accommodation”.
She was referring to the two UK government’s schemes to resettle Afghans in the country. The first is the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) — for Afghans who worked directly with British forces and their families — and the second is the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) for those who worked in British-run civil schemes or are in vulnerable minority groups.
The lawyer added that the resettlement would proceed under the ARAP scheme, and the immigrants would be housed “into suitable accommodation as a primary option as quickly as possible”. “But if transitional accommodation is required, this will be provided, including hotel accommodation if necessary,” The Independent reported.
The relocated Afghans will be kept in armed forces homes in the UK.
Earlier, documents submitted in the court stated that UK PM Rishi Sunak, in a bid to cut costs, had instructed government departments only to relocate Afghans if an accommodation, other than hotels, was arranged for them, according to BBC.
The lawyers also said the UK was trying to expedite the relocation while negotiating with the Pakistani government to expedite this process.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2023