A group of former Chevening scholars have accused the British government of abandoning them in Afghanistan, where they say their lives are in grave danger because of the Taliban.
The UK government has prioritized rescuing 35 current Chevening scholars who were supposed to embark on their studies in the UK prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, but some 70 former scholars are believed to still be in the country.
The Chevening scholarship program, established in 1983, supports study at UK universities, mostly one-year master’s degrees, for students with demonstrable potential to become future leaders, decision makers and opinion formers.
Initial promises to help former academics who returned to Afghanistan to help strengthen civil society, education and women’s rights in their home country after completing their studies in the UK are no longer visible on the pages UK government website.
They say they feel increasingly desperate at the prospect of being taken to safety. One, speaking from hiding in Afghanistan, told The Guardian: “It is almost impossible to cross the border into Pakistan unless there is a special arrangement by the UK government. Even if we can cross that border, there is no guarantee that we will be evacuated because we have not been contacted for weeks and our emails have not been answered by British government officials. “
They said that only those with travel authorization letters could cross the border into Pakistan from the Taliban.
“Former scholars are still at high risk,” wrote some of the former scholars in a recent open letter to the British government. The letter says that as early as July officials at the British embassy in Kabul were warned that the situation was deteriorating rapidly.
They say that former Chevening students had been directly attacked and some family members interrogated and tortured by the Taliban.
A former Chevening scholar said: “Things are getting more and more dangerous for us and we feel powerless. We think it’s only a matter of time before we are … hunted. There have been reports of people like us who have had ties to the former Afghan government and the missing West.
“Regarding the eligibility criteria, the UK government has removed the list of prioritized categories for resettlement from its websites, which included us. The UK government has maintained that work is under way on the Afghan resettlement plan and that eligibility criteria will be announced soon. We are afraid that they will not include us ”.
A UK government spokesman said: “We have been helping Afghan scholars from Chevening this year to leave the country and they have started arriving in the UK. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure safe passage and fulfill our obligation to remove eligible British and Afghan citizens from the country. “
Government sources said more details about eligibility for resettlement were being developed and would be shared in due course.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism