The Immigration Law Practitioner’s Association (ILPA), along with multiple other organisations including Human Rights Watch, Scottish Refugee Council have issued a parliamentary briefing on Afghanistan, one year on from the Taliban taking control of the country following the withdrawal of US and allied forces.
The briefing addresses human rights abuses committed by the Taliban and outlines the problems associated with the Afghan Relocations an Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the so-called Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and makes recommendations for the government.
UK Relocation and Resettlement Schemes
The UK Government evacuated around 18,000 people, including more that 6,000 British nationals, to the UK during Operation Pitting following the Taliban’s takeover.
The UK Government set up two schemes for the relocation and resettlement of Afghan nationals and certain family members.
The ARAP scheme launched on 1 April 2021 to relocate former military interpreters and other staff. The briefing comments that the scheme remains not properly functioning, being marred by ongoing substantive and procedural problems. As of 27 July 2022, around 10,100 eligible individuals and their families have been relocated to the UK under ARAP. It states that thousands of Afghans remain at real risk because of their work with the UK mission in Afghanistan and they have yet to be relocated to the UK. The briefing refers to reports of a backlog of 23,000 applications since October 2021, with only one in four applications having been processed and many applicants not having received a decision a year on. The briefing comments that many Afghans still remain excluded from the ARAP scheme due to the heightening of risk thresholds to levels unduly restrictive, in December 2021.
The ACRS was announced in August 2021 and formally opened in January 2022 and committed to resettle more than 5,000 people in the first year and up to 20,000 over the coming years. Afghans already in the country following Operation Pitting were moved into ACRS and counted towards its places. The briefing comments that this decision reduces the number of places available in the scheme and emphasised that the UK commitment to 20,000 is significantly less than other countries, such as Canada, that has doubled its commitment to resettling 40,000. It confirms there have been no further updates on how many individuals have been resettled or relocated under the three pathways outlined in the scheme.
The recommendations in the briefing include:
- expediting all ARAP applications, providing applicants with clear timelines and urgently relocating eligible Afghans; and
- expanding the ARAP scheme to ensure that all Afghans who worked alongside, in partnership with or closely supporting the UK Government, who currently fall outside the narrow categories of the scheme, are eligible for relocation, emphasising that it should not be unduly restrictive; and
- increasing the number of ACRS places beyond 20,000 by at least the amount of those who arrived in the UK under Operation Pitting and were counted under pathway one of the ACRS scheme (approximately 6,500, including British nationals and their family members); and
- ensure the schemes are adequately resourced and managed to allow decisions to be made in a timely manner; and
- ensure the same approach for all refugees, regardless of origin, and establish an Afghan family reunion scheme, on parallel terms to the Ukraine Family Scheme.
The full briefing can be found here: Parliamentary Briefing on Afghanistan