A former interpreter from Afghanistan who worked with the British military has moved to the United Kingdom with his family following a long legal dispute with the government. This comes over two years after he was first granted permission to relocate.
Before the Taliban seized control, Ahmad had been employed as an interpreter in Helmand province. In late 2020, he was granted permission to move to the UK, but was ultimately denied by the Home Office. As a result, he was unable to evacuate as the UK and its allies withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021.
Ahmad expressed, “It was incredibly challenging and a time that will stay with me. I am currently in the UK, which proves the refusal of my visa was incorrect. I am curious as to why you denied my visa and what the issue was. This refusal caused me to experience mental distress and encounter numerous difficulties.”
Earlier in the year, Ahmad and his family received visas after going through a series of legal reviews. However, in Iran, where they sought refuge, they experienced a long delay due to a new government rule that required them to have permanent housing before they could arrive, as part of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) or the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap).
Erin Alcock, a lawyer representing Ahmad, stated that it was unreasonable for the UK government to abandon our client and numerous others in dangerous situations abroad, despite their approval for relocation to the UK for safety.
The government has eliminated the housing obligation in the relocation procedure, opening doors for numerous families to successfully finish their relocation and begin their new lives in the UK.
Ahmad and his family have successfully moved to a new location, but approximately 2,000 Afghan citizens who put themselves in danger by working for or with the British government in Afghanistan are currently stranded in Pakistan or Iran. Some have been waiting for resettlement for months, and others for years. Over £15m has been used to provide housing for those who qualify under the Arap program in countries like Pakistan and Iran.
Pakistan has initiated the expulsion of individuals who are deemed “unlawful immigrants” as of 1 November. This action has been criticized by the United Nations as it poses a significant threat to more than 1.4 million Afghan residents currently residing in Pakistan. Towards the end of October, the initial flight transporting Afghan nationals from Pakistan to the UK took place, aligning with the government’s December 15th ultimatum to remove individuals who served for the UK in Afghanistan from their accommodations.
A spokesperson for the UK government stated that they have made a bold and compassionate pledge to assist vulnerable individuals in Afghanistan. To date, they have successfully relocated approximately 24,600 people to secure locations, including numerous individuals who qualify for our Afghan programs.
We are still fulfilling our promises to bring qualified Afghans to the UK. New arrivals are being placed in permanent housing whenever feasible.
Sara de Jong, one of the founders of the Sulha Alliance, an organization that assists Afghans who served the British government in resettling in the United Kingdom, expressed her joy upon hearing that Ahmad and his family have been granted asylum after over two years of seeking help from the group. However, De Jong noted that the lengthy processing of his case is not an uncommon occurrence.
De Jong, a professor of politics at the University of York, stated that the government’s concessions in court for specific cases should prompt them to speed up the resettlement process for Afghan interpreters who have faced challenges and delays for over two years.
In August 2021, when the Taliban regained control of the country, Ahmad and his family chose to stay inside and avoid going outside. He instructed his family to tell anyone who asked about him that they had already left the country.
Ahmad expressed, “It was a challenging situation that caused fear for my family and myself. Our military occupation with the British forces in Afghanistan put us in danger. I had a plan to flee from Afghanistan, but unfortunately, I did not have the chance to execute it.”
Earlier this year, Ahmad received an email from the Home Office informing him of their approval to move to the UK. He expressed his joy, saying “That was a truly delightful moment.”
For a period of eight months, the family resided in a hotel located in Tehran, Iran. According to Ahmad, their circumstances were challenging as he was not permitted to work. He also shared that his children were unable to attend school and they lacked access to reliable healthcare facilities. When Ahmad attempted to renew their visas, Iranian officials would inquire about their reasons for being there and why they were not in Afghanistan. The general public also posed similar questions and as time went on, the family continued to stay in the hotel out of fear of being detained and deported.
However, some of Ahmad’s previous coworkers are still waiting to be relocated from Iran and Pakistan. Although he is still worried about his initial rejection in 2020, he is currently eager to begin job hunting in the UK and start their new life.
He expressed his joy, stating that everyone was also pleased.
In order to protect the privacy of individuals, names have been altered.