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MoD apologises for asking Afghans to get Taliban’s approval to come to UK

The Ministry of Defence has apologised after an investigation found Afghan applicants to a resettlement scheme were told they could only come to the UK if their documents were approved by the Taliban.

The Independent revealed that the mistake affected applicants to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme (Arap), which aims to relocate Afghan citizens who worked with the UK government or helped its armed forces in Afghanistan. The MoD decides which applicants – who may apply with their families – are eligible for relocation to Britain.

Arap differs from the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme (ACRS), which works to relocate members of the public and vulnerable people to the UK.

Citing emails sent from MoD caseworkers to Arap applicants, the Independent found applicants were required to provide birth and marriage certificates in English and bearing stamps from Afghan government departments. The Taliban has ruled Afghanistan since the summer of 2021.

The MoD initially denied the practice but an MoD spokesperson eventually said the ministry has “swiftly corrected” the mistake and was “urgently reinforcing our internal guidance and processes to ensure this does not happen again”.

“We apologise unreservedly and continue to work tirelessly to move eligible people to safety,” the spokesperson said.

The Arap case team also sent an apology email to applicants, stating: “We understand that some of you may have received communications from Arap telling you to visit the local authorities or ministry of foreign affairs to obtain new documentation for your relocation to the UK.

“If you received one of these messages, this was incorrect and we apologise for any misunderstanding or distress caused by this message.”

One Afghan interpreter was told his marriage certificate and his children’s birth certificates had to be validated by Afghanistan’s ministry of foreign affairs. He attempted to get his marriage certificate verified at the Taliban’s ministry of justice.

The interpreter remains in Afghanistan, waiting for help to transfer to a third country before the UK. He is currently in hiding and unable to work.

The UK government promised to resettle up to 20,000 eligible Afghans – including 5,000 in the first year – but has been criticised for delays in the process.

While 11,212 people were resettled in Britain under Arap, the number of admittances fell in late 2021, after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

According to Home Office data, more than 6,200 Afghans were relocated under Arap between July and September 2021. This dropped to 732 in the last quarter of 2021. One year on, only 743 were admitted in the last quarter of 2022.

As for ACRS, only 22 Afghans eligible under the scheme’s second pathway – designed for vulnerable fleeing refugees referred by the United Nations high commissioner for refugees – were resettled by the end of December.

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