Rush to evacuate thousands of Afghans to Britain-12 flights chartered | Politics | News
Officials and charities fear translators who worked alongside British troops in Afghanistan and former embassy and security staff who supported coalition forces could fall into the clutches of the Taliban.
As many as 12 flights have been chartered, with the first arriving in the UK late last week. The Daily Express understands many of the Afghan migrants will be placed in military accommodation, including Catterick Garrison in Rishi Sunak’s constituency.
This is only a “temporary measure”, officials insisted, before they are moved into asylum accommodation.
Large numbers of Afghans crammed into trucks and buses in Pakistan on Tuesday, heading to the border to return home hours before the expiration of a Pakistani government deadline for those who are in the country illegally to leave or face deportation.
A source said: “The Government has been frantically trying to get all Afghans in Pakistan eligible for resettlement to the UK by the end of the month. Apparently, they are going to temporarily house some of them in MoD sites.”
Pakistan set a deadline of November 1 for every Afghan who arrived illegally to leave the country – or they will be detained and deported.
Whitehall sources said the Government has increased the number of flights in response to the warning.Afghans being relocated to Britain have already been accepted under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.
But they have been trapped in Pakistan, unable to leave hotel rooms paid for by British taxpayers amid fears they would be arrested by Pakistani authorities and sent back to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
The Government believes there are 3,250 Afghans eligible to come to Britain living in hotels or guest houses in Islamabad.
Among them are former translators for the British Army and teachers for the British Council.
They were asked to go to Pakistan for visa processing, but charities say some have been waiting there for more than a year, and that many of their visas have now expired.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council said: “We welcome the UK Government’s efforts to put in place arrangements to allow those who fled Afghanistan to travel to the UK.”
They must also work with the authorities in Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of those awaiting travel for as long as is needed.”
Pakistani officials warn that people who are in the country illegally face arrest and deportation after Oct. 31. U.N. agencies say there are more than 2 million undocumented Afghans in Pakistan, at least 600,000 of whom fled after the Taliban takeover in 2021.
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Pakistan of resorting to “threats, abuse, and detention to coerce Afghan asylum seekers without legal status” to return to Afghanistan.
Federal Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti warned that law enforcement agencies will start removing “illegal immigrants who have … no justification” being in Pakistan after Tuesday.
They will be processed at “holding centers” and then deported, he told reporters, adding that women, children and the elderly would be treated “respectfully.”
A government spokesperson said: “The UK has made an ambitious and generous commitment to help at-risk people in Afghanistan and, so far, we have brought around 24,600 people to safety, including thousands of people eligible for our Afghan schemes.”
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