Ministry of Defence apologises for 'reckless' error
MoD apologises for ‘reckless’ error after dozens of Afghan interpreters in hiding were told to get the TALIBAN to approve UK asylum documents
- Afghans were told certificates must be stamped by departments run by Taliban
- Move put the applicants in danger as they effectively ‘handed themselves in’
Desperate Afghan interpreters in hiding have been told to get their documents approved by the Taliban if they want to seek refuge in Britain.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been forced to apologise for the ‘reckless’ error, which affected applicants to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme (Arap) for those who helped British forces during the war.
Almost 40 Afghans who are trying to escape the Taliban were told birth and marriage certificates must be in English and must be stamped by Afghan departments now run by the militant group.
Critics claim the move put the applicants who have been in hiding since the Taliban seized power in August 2021 in danger as they were effectively being asked to ‘hand themselves in’.
Former translator Rafi Hottak, who worked with the British special forces in Afghanistan before being forced to flee the militants and seek asylum in the UK in 2011, said the error was ‘reckless’.
Desperate Afghan interpreters in hiding have been told to get their documents approved by the Taliban if they want to seek refuge in Britain. Pictured: Visa applicants
Critics claim the move put the applicants in danger as they were effectively being asked to ‘hand themselves in’. Pictured: Afghan citizens escaping the country in 2021
‘It was unnecessary and reckless to ask the Afghans to do this. It puts their lives at risk – more than they are already at risk,’ he told the Mail.
The father of three added that he was contacted by several worried applicants and was forced to tell them not to act on the instructions.
‘They were effectively being asked to hand themselves into the Taliban,’ he said.
‘These people are in hiding and are unable to work, their situation is very dire and they are surviving on donations.’
Mr Hottak, who has since retrained as an accountant and settled in Birmingham, said the error highlighted worrying inadequacies in the Arap scheme.
‘It shows that the people working within Arap have no understanding of the realities of the Afghans and the dangers they are facing every day.’
Critics say Afghan marriage certificates are issued in local languages and are not readily available in English while new passports are virtually impossible to get.
The MoD was forced to ‘apologise unreservedly’ and launch a review after the error was exposed by The Independent.
The department said all 37 of the applicants who were given the wrong instructions are safe and have since been told not to contact the Taliban.
Officials had emailed several applicants asking for documents to be provided with stamps from the Afghan authorities – even though the UK refuses to recognise the Taliban as the new government.
In one case, an Afghan interpreter was told to have his children’s birth certificates and his marriage certificate validated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
He was said to have eventually taken his marriage certificate to the Taliban’s Ministry of Justice to get it verified despite living in hiding.
Dan Jarvis, a Labour MP and former soldier who served in Afghanistan, said: ‘Asking our Afghan allies to have their papers approved by the Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs is like asking them to sign their own death warrant.
‘These requests by the UK Government show a complete disregard to the grave realities eligible Afghans face, pushing desperate men into perilous situations.’
When the MoD was alerted to this grave error the Arap caseworkers sent applicants an email apologising.
The email, seen by the Independent, read: ‘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.’
Ministers have been accused of failing Afghan refugees in the 18 months since Kabul fell because of a series of delays with Arap.
The resettlement scheme is for Afghans who worked with the UK Government and armed forces and are entitled to apply for relocation with their families.
Statistics show that some 11,200 people have travelled to Britain under Arap, but those numbers dropped sharply following the Taliban’s takeover in 2021.
Thousands of Afghans who worked with UK troops are thought to still be trapped in the country as the Taliban continue to hunt down those who aided Western forces.
According to MoD estimates, there are more than 4,500 people eligible to refuge in Britain under the Arap scheme who have not yet been relocated.
Yet those assisting the applicants say requests for official documents had become more rigid in recent months and more and more applications were being declined.
The department said all 37 of the applicants who were given the wrong instructions are safe and have since been told not to contact the Taliban. Pictured: A family evacuating in 2021
A MoD spokesman said: ‘Last month, we were notified of an error in recent communications with a group of ARAP applicants, instructing them to verify documents with local authorities.
‘The 37 affected applicants were notified of the error and have since responded to the correct instructions and confirmed they are currently safe.
‘The MoD is now conducting a review to identify any further remedial actions needed to strengthen policies and processes.
‘We apologise unreservedly for this error and will continue supporting ARAP-eligible individuals as we progress their safe relocation, alongside the 12,200 people already brought to the UK.’
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