A message from our CEO, Sabir Zazai:
It has now been two years since the fall of Kabul and the evacuation of Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, there are no opportunities for men and women under the new regime. People are fleeing for a numbers of reasons, including extreme poverty and real threats to life and livelihoods.
Despite many promises from the government to help resettle Afghans in the UK, thousands are left in limbo. Some have been left waiting for over two years in neighbouring countries attempting the lengthy process of applying for visas, or are stuck in the increasingly hostile UK asylum process.
After two years, there is still no process for the majority of Afghan refugees to reunite with family members who were left behind after the evacuation.
For every Afghan person who arrived in the UK on a resettlement scheme in the year ending March 2023, almost 90 crossed the Channel in a small boat. Recent tragedies have shown how important it is for safe routes to be established, the government to follow through on resettlement promises, and families to be reunited.
In January 2022 the Government opened the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), promising to resettle 5,000 Afghan refugees in the first year and 20,000 over the coming years. Since this announcement, only 54 Afghans have been newly resettled in the UK on ACRS. The schemes are now seemingly dormant, despite a great need for them.
The government’s Illegal Migration Act means that, despite formerly 98% of asylum claims from people from Afghanistan being granted, people now arriving via small boat, car or lorry will no longer be able to claim asylum, and will instead be subject to detention and removal. People fleeing the Taliban will have nowhere to turn.
On top of this, over 9,000 Afghan men, women and children are still in temporary accommodation. These people are at risk of being evicted at the end of this month, with no formal plan in place for future accommodation.
For people who have spent two years in temporary accommodation, their journey of community-based integration has not started yet. They have not been able to start to build their lives here and become part of their local communities.
“The government has forgotten about these people”
I recently visited an ex-hotel in Edinburgh where people from Afghanistan have been living for up to two years. I expected them to be frustrated at not having houses for them and their families. Instead, it was employment they wanted to talk about. They told me: ‘We worked for you during the war, why can we not work for you now?’ They are eager to work and provide for themselves. The government has forgotten about these people. Instead of becoming active parts of our society, their talents are being wasted.
Two years on, the picture is very bleak. Both in terms of the UK’s response, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
We call on the government to act swiftly in granting asylum to Afghans awaiting their decisions. We call on them facilitate family reunion and establish safe and legal safe routes for those fleeing the crisis. The UK needs to show leadership in terms of providing international aid. We all must work together.
While we await action from the UK government, people are being forced to make impossible decisions, embark on treacherous journeys and be separated from their loved ones. People we promised to help. The least we can do is reach out, show compassion and help them to rebuild their lives with dignity, no matter how they arrived here.
I do not want to us to reach a third anniversary where we are talking about the same things. People need protection now.
Read more about our work helping Afghan communities