Afghan applying to resettle in UK asked to provide Taliban approval

Despite MoD assurances, applicant and former British Council worker still being asked for Taliban-stamped papers

An Afghan who worked with the British Council and is applying to come to the UK has been told to retrieve documents from the Taliban or risk rejection, despite assurances earlier this month that such demands would end.

The Ministry of Defence apologised on 18 March after an investigation found that applicants to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) scheme were required to provide birth and marriage certificates in English and bearing stamps from Afghan government departments.

But 10 days later, applicants to another government scheme for Afghan people who had worked with the UK armed forces or authorities are being asked by the government for documents signed by the Taliban-led government.

An applicant who was forced to leave Afghanistan for fear of reprisals was told that to qualify to come to the UK under the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme (ACRS), claimants must retrieve passports, birth certificates and marriage certificates signed by “local authorities”.

“The marriage certificate should clearly [be] stamped by the local authorities,” a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) email to an applicant says.

The FCDO insists the email does not reflect its policy and plans to contact the recipient to “clarify the process”.

It comes amid deepening concerns that Rishi Sunak’s government has failed to uphold promises made by Boris Johnson to support Afghans who worked and fought alongside the UK in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the government announced that from April, Afghans who have been forced to live in cramped conditions in hotels could be given three months’ notice and may face being registered as homeless.

The case emerged after it was raised with a Liberal Democrat MP by an ACRS applicant who was a contractor for the British Council in Afghanistan. They originally applied to come to the UK under the Arap scheme but did not receive approval before August 2021 when western governments withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving Kabul to fall to the Taliban.

After several months of waiting, they were informed they must apply under the ACRS scheme and have since received initial approval. As part of the verification process, they have been asked to provide a marriage certificate stamped by local authorities, which are the Taliban.

The Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse said: “The Afghan resettlement schemes have been a complete and utter shambles. These are truly brave people who risked everything to help us. We are now abandoning them through departmental incompetence and political ignorance.”

In April 2021, before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the government launched the Arap scheme and opened ACRS in January 2022, which it says will allow up to 20,000 refugees to settle in the UK.

The government says more than 24,000 Afghans had arrived in the UK as of December 2022. Of these, more than 21,000 have been resettled under refugee schemes.

Operation Warm Welcome was launched in August 2021 to aid the full integration of Afghans into British life after the UK followed the US in withdrawing from Kabul. Johnson, prime minister at the time, said: “We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us at great risk to themselves.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “This message does not reflect departmental policy. We do not expect Afghans eligible for resettlement under the ACRS to provide every document requested; we only ask they provide the documentation which they are able to.”


Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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