Wednesday, September 27

Nearly 100 former British Council officials remain in hiding in Afghanistan | Afghanistan

Nearly 100 former British Council employees employed to teach British values ​​and the English language remain hidden in Afghanistan after officials have so far denied them the right to come to the UK.

Joseph Seaton, former director of the British Council Afghanistan English, and its deputy director, has addressed their plight and written to the most relevant members of the cabinet in an attempt to gain their support.

Staff applied to come to the UK under the government’s Afghan Assistance and Relocation Policy (Arap), established earlier this year, but Seaton says their requests remain unprocessed and unanswered months after they were submitted. He served as the English Manager for the British Council in Kabul and was Deputy Director from 2016-2020.

He told The Guardian: “These people live in constant fear for their lives. They were hired under a British government-funded scheme to teach English teachers the British values ​​of diversity, inclusion and equality, the values ​​that … the Taliban oppose. They were always told that they were British government employees. “

In an email he sent to the prime minister shortly after the fall of Kabul in September, he warned Boris Johnson: “Many of them have made the Taliban visit their homes, or the homes of their relatives, asking questions and threatening. Many of them have had to move, while others live in hiding. ”

He added in the note, which was also distributed to other cabinet ministers: “The teachers worked in highly visible roles facing the public. Many are women and all represented the British Council and promoted the language, culture and values ​​of the United Kingdom. They are now targets of persecution and it is surely the responsibility of the UK government to ensure that they are relocated to the UK as soon as possible. While I (and others) continue to urge them not to seek publicity or court the media, should they become an even greater target, their plight should be highlighted to those with the greatest power and influence. “

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He said other British Council staff (up to 30) who had been employed at the Kabul head office within the British embassy had been relocated during June, July and August, but those working in the field outside of the main office they were excluded. He said that they had the same employment contract and that, by dint of working abroad, they were more exposed than those in the central office.

He said: “While they have been repeatedly told that the British Council, the Foreign Office and the Defense Ministry are doing their best to move their cases forward, there has been no progress on their cases in the last three months. . As former BC employees, all are eligible for Arap, but all are still awaiting approval and relocation.

“With each passing day, the threat level increases and yet there is no progress, and no explanations are given for Arap’s endless waiting and silence. They all urgently need their Arap applications approved and their relocation process confirmed, formalized and scheduled. “

One of the former British Council workers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “I have the Taliban everywhere we live. We need to keep changing our identity and moving our house. We have no job, no income, and no prospect of escape.

“They told us not to publicize our case, but we have no choice as no one listens to us or seems to care. What I did in teaching was very public on social networks, so they will be looking for me. I don’t understand why they didn’t put us on the Arap scheme in the first place. “

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Seaton said he had never received any response beyond an acknowledgment from Downing Street, but after the intervention of the office of Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat and the chairman of the select committee on home affairs, Foreign Minister Lord Ahmad, sent what appeared to be a largely proforma letter setting out the rules for Arap.

Ahmad added: “Finding and supporting people remains our top priority; To focus our efforts on supporting those in need, we have dedicated significant additional resources to this.

“The volume of cases that we are dealing with is still very high and therefore the FCDO will not provide individual updates as it will reduce our ability to continue the task of bringing those in need to safety.”

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