RAF plane to fly up to 40 Afghans to UK as evacuations resume

Flight carrying translators and others who have escaped Taliban to land at RAF Brize Norton on Friday

An RAF flight of Afghan translators and others who have escaped the Taliban is due to land in the UK on Friday, the largest single evacuation by Britain since the Kabul airlift ended in August.

Between 30 and 40 people are expected to land at RAF Brize Norton, having got out of Afghanistan via a route the Ministry of Defence wants to keep confidential to protect future evacuees.

It is understood that periodic evacuation flights involving military transport planes could now continue for several weeks, picking up any people eligible to come to the UK, in the latest effort to rescue people at risk.

The plans have not yet been formally announced but multiple defence sources confirmed the fresh evacuations had begun. More details are expected to emerge as the plane lands and parliament could be updated when MPs return next week.

Boris Johnson said last month that 311 Afghan translators with a right to come to the UK with their immediate families had not made it out of the country, although other figures suggest the total number of unresolved claims is far higher, at 6,800.

It is less certain how many have managed to cross the borders to neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Uzbekistan and could yet make it to an evacuation point outside Afghanistan.

Britain has not been able to fly any people directly from Afghanistan since the chaotic airlift ended in August, although Qatar flew some Britons out last month. The UK has repeatedly lobbied the Taliban to allow people wanting to leave to have safe passage out of the country, including at a meeting in Kabul this month.

Afghan translators who helped the British during their 20 years in Afghanistan have a an open-ended right to resettle in the UK because they are at risk from reprisals from the country’s new rulers, although they have to demonstrate that they helped the UK military during that period.

Ministers have committed to allowing any other so-called special cases – civil society or government figures deemed to be at serious risk – who were “called forward or specifically authorised for evacuation” but not able to board flights, to retain their right to resettle if they can find a way to leave Afghanistan.

Their numbers, thought to include former judges, government employees and women’s rights or gay rights activists, were collected by the Foreign Office during a chaotic summer period. But ministers have never publicly revealed how many are on this list.

It is expected they will form part of the cohort of 5,000 people the UK has promised it will take in during the first year of the yet-to-be-opened Afghan citizens‘ resettlement scheme. Announced by Johnson in August, it is expected to take in 20,000 over four years.

The UK is also ready to evacuate Afghans with a claim to resettle in other allied nations, continuing a policy from during the emergency airlift in August. About 15,000 were flown out by the RAF including 5,000 Britons and 8,000 Afghans, with the rest made up of third-country nationals.


Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
UK may double troops in Afghanistan after Donald Trump request
US asks for reinforcements after Taliban resurgence

Ewen MacAskill Defence correspondent

17, May, 2018 @11:11 PM

Article image
Too little, too late: why it was panic stations in Whitehall as Kabul fell
How the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan precipitated a political one at the heart of UK government

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor

20, Aug, 2021 @3:14 PM

Article image
RAF has fired missiles in Afghanistan using US drones, MoD reveals
MoD discloses for first time how British crews using unmanned US aircraft have launched missiles in conflict zones

Nick Hopkins

09, Feb, 2014 @8:00 PM

Article image
Fresh hope for ex-marine’s efforts to rescue 200 cats and dogs from Kabul
UK defence secretary says Paul Farthing, his team and animals can leave on chartered plane

Kevin Rawlinson and agency

25, Aug, 2021 @8:25 AM

Article image
‘They left us to die’: UK’s Afghan aid staff in hiding from Taliban
Evacuation of employees, not contractors, ‘splitting hairs’, says HRW, warning of days left to save lives

Katie McQue in Dubai

17, Sep, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Britain fears US forces may pull out of Kabul airport within days
Exclusive: Whitehall and security sources worry they will not be able to continue emergency evacuations

Dan Sabbagh, Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot

18, Aug, 2021 @7:33 PM

Article image
Refugees plead for their release from RAF base in Cyprus
UK under pressure to resolve status of migrants at Cyprus base amid footage of children pleading for release and one man apparently trying to kill himself

Radwan Mortada, Chavala Madlena and Mark Tran

03, Nov, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Afghan interpreters working for UK army ‘failed’ by government
Britain must abandon policy of leaving ex-staff dangerously exposed, says Commons report

Ewen MacAskill Defence correspondent

25, May, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
UK defence secretary hits out at supporters of animal rescuer in Kabul
Ben Wallace says those backing Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing’s evacuation effort are interfering with work to save Afghans

Caroline Davies and Aubrey Allegretti

26, Aug, 2021 @4:34 PM

Article image
RAF helicopter crash in Kabul 'partly caused by surveillance balloon'
Afghan soldiers playing football on landing site also contributed to helicopter’s crash in 2015 that killed five, coroner rules

Ewen MacAskill Defence correspondent

15, Sep, 2017 @5:30 PM