The Home Office has tightened the criteria for allowing Afghans to enter the UK despite promises by Boris Johnson to give a “warm welcome” to those who aided British forces or worked with the government.
The department announced changes to the Afghan Assistance and Relocation Policy (Arap), which lowers the criteria used during the Operation Pitting evacuation in August 2021.
After the UK’s chaotic departure from Kabul in August, the Prime Minister launched “Operation warm welcome” ensure the safety of personnel who fear for their lives against the Taliban.
“I am determined to welcome them with open arms and that my government provide them with the support they need to rebuild their lives,” Johnson said at the time. “We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by the Afghans who chose to work with us, at great risk to themselves.”
The changes come amid growing concern that the government has yet to open the resettlement plan for Afghan citizens. Lobbyists have claimed that the government’s new immigration and border bill will criminalize, detain, and remove Afghan refugees seeking safety here by other means.
Minnie Rahman, acting executive director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the change was another example of how the government had “closed the door” on the Afghan people.
“The narrowing of the Arap scheme and the failure to open the Afghan resettlement program means that Afghans with ties to the UK are now stuck in an impossible bind.
“People can stay in Afghanistan and risk dying, or make their own dangerous trips here and face prison, detention or deportation under this government’s new border bill,” he said.
The rule changes mean that those employed directly in Afghanistan by a UK government department as of October 1, 2001 must now be at “high and imminent risk” of threat to their life in order to come to the UK.
Under the previous rules, they only needed to show that there was an “imminent” risk.
Zoe Bantleman, Legal Director of the Immigration Law Professionals Association, tweeted that those employed in a position exposed by a UK government department or who provided language services must demonstrate, as a result of public recognition for the performance of their role, that their safety is at risk.
“This reduces the test of the [home secretary] determining that the person needs to be relocated to the UK, ”he wrote.
Another category of applicants must now demonstrate a substantially positive contribution to specific UK national security or military objectives and that they are or were at elevated risk of death or serious injury or have confidential information.
“While the clarification of the criteria in the Arap rules is welcome, it is unclear why the rules for entry clearance for Afghans who assisted the UK are being lowered at this time,” wrote Bantleman.
A government spokesman said the UK implemented the largest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping more than 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan, whom it continues to support.
“We are now updating Arap’s immigration rules to clarify who is eligible to apply under the scheme, allow more families to stay together, and offer support to those who need it most.
“The resettlement plan for Afghan citizens will open soon and it is one of the most generous plans in the history of our country. It will give 20,000 people at risk a new life in the UK. We will honor the commitments made to individuals and groups, ”the spokesperson said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism