Asylum system failing Afghan refugees promised safe passage to UK

"Following the promises the Government made, this is the ultimate betrayal"

Afghan refugees are facing the ‘ultimate betrayal’ by the UK Government as, despite promises made to resettle thousands of Afghans after the Taliban takeover two years ago, only one in nine arrive to the UK via a safe Afghan scheme.

When the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, 15,000 Afghans were evacuated, forced to flee their homeland and resettle as refugees.

The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme was opened with the promise from the Government to resettle more than 5,000 people in the first year and ‘up to 20,000 over the coming years’.

However, two years later, and the latest statistics reveal that the number of people arriving through the UK’s resettlement schemes continues at a painfully slow rate.

Only 101 people were resettled through the different pathways of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme in the first half of this year, whilst 1,474 Afghans were detected arriving on small boats in the same period.

This month alone six Afghans lost their life attempting to cross the Channel to reach safety, and for every person who arrives safely on an Afghan scheme, eight others have to risk their lives crossing on small boats.  

This presents a devastating narrative for those who were promised a safe means of passage, but have found themselves forced into taking dangerous alternative means of travel due to a system which is failing them.

Refugee charity Safe Passage referred to it as the ‘ultimate betrayal’ from the Government and called for urgent action to ‘fix the broken schemes’.

“Following the promises the Government made, this is the ultimate betrayal,” said Emily, Head of Policy at Safe Passage.

“Sunak’s Government has quietly dropped commitments, slashed targets and broken promises. Afghans need better.”

A previous report by the Refugee Council found many refugees from Afghanistan were stuck in limbo in Pakistan, as the UK Government would not allow them travel unless they have accommodation in the UK, which many did not have.

Whilst for those who made it to the UK, their situation remains equally stark with the huge asylum application backlog leaving refugees stuck without refugee status for years.

In March it was announced that Afghans would be moved out of hotel accommodation based on the argument it was too large a financial cost. As a result, one in five Afghans in England who were evicted from hotel accommodation have presented as homeless to their Local Government Association, laying bare the devastating situation for those initially promised safety in this country.  

(Photo credit: Flickr / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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