London has admitted a "mistake" that required its Afghan contractors to vet their relocation with Taliban officials
The UK Ministry of Defence has belatedly apologized for requiring Afghan citizens who worked with London during the US-led NATO occupation of their country to have their documents approved by the Taliban before applying for resettlement in Britain, the Independent revealed on Sunday.
The government confirmed that 37 applicants to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Police (ARAP) program, designed specifically to relocate allies who worked directly with the British military during the war, had been told they would have to have their papers certified with Afghan government departments. Those departments have been run by the Taliban since the group returned to power amid the hasty withdrawal of NATO forces in 2021.
Given that such individuals would be seen as enemy collaborators by the Islamic fundamentalists, the policy amounted to "asking them to sign their own death warrant," one UK lawmaker told the Independent.
After initially denying that applicants had been given any such instructions for weeks, the ministry has apologized "unreservedly for this error." A spokesperson told the Independent there would be an investigation into how the life-threatening orders had been sent, plus a review "to identify any further remedial actions needed to strengthen policies and processes."
UK defence officials insisted that all 37 affected applicants have confirmed they are safe, though at least one interpreter is apparently in hiding after taking his marriage certificate to the Afghan Ministry of Justice for "validation." The Afghan contractors have been sent revised guidance and an apology for "any misunderstanding or distress" caused by previous instructions.
While the UK has two dedicated programs in place for relocating Afghan refugees, people fleeing the war-torn country now make up the largest portion of small-boat passengers arriving illegally on British shores.
Some 743 people were resettled under ARAP in the last quarter of 2022. Under the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which is open to any "at-risk and vulnerable" refugees who "supported UK values" in their home country, just 22 Afghans have entered the UK since the Taliban takeover.
The US also imperiled hundreds of its Afghan allies as it haphazardly exited the country in August 2021, ending the longest war in American history. The US State Department gave the Taliban lists for entire busloads of people whom it wanted allowed through checkpoints so they could get to the Kabul airport for evacuation, essentially marking those individuals as potential enemy collaborators.