round 240 Afghans who assisted British forces in Afghanistan are waiting to be relocated despite being promised protection at least six months ago, according to official figures.
The Government has been accused of “failing” Afghan nationals at risk after the Taliban swept back into power in August 2021, with the Liberal Democrats describing the situation as “scandalous”.
The approximately 240 people are eligible under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), which was set up to assist former locally employed staff in Afghanistan and relocate them to the UK.
Defence minister James Heappey said the Government is relocating people as quickly as possible but that there are “a range of potential issues which can delay the movement of individuals”, including documentation and security concerns.
Britain has a moral duty to assist and protect them
Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “The Conservatives are failing Afghans who supported our armed forces.
“The Government is simply not dealing with Arap relocations and applications fast enough, while Afghans who worked alongside UK personnel are at grave risk from the Taliban. Britain has a moral duty to assist and protect them.”
“Ministers urgently need to fix the Arap scheme.”
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Jamie Stone added: “The number of people promised protection under the Arap scheme and not yet relocated to the UK is scandalous.
“These people put their lives on the line to help UK forces during the war, and were promised the chance to start a new life here in the UK.
“Instead, they’ve been left in limbo by the Conservative Government. I urge the Defence Secretary to resolve this issue right away.”
So far, around 10,000 people have been brought to the UK under the Arap scheme since it was launched in 2021.
But the Government has come under sustained criticism throughout the process over the speed of relocations and concerns for those who were still in Afghanistan and potentially at risk when the Taliban took over the country last year.
Responding to a written parliamentary question from Labour, defence minister Mr Heappey said: “As of August 31 2022, we are aware of approximately 240 Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy eligible principals, who received an eligibility decision either on or prior to 28 February 28 2022, that have not been relocated to the UK.
“We are relocating individuals and their family members as quickly as possible and have relocated over a thousand individuals over the summer period.
“There are a range of potential issues which can delay the movement of individuals, including documentation and security considerations but we are actively communicating with all individuals to remove these barriers as quickly as possible.”