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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

Afghan British Council teachers stuck in Pakistan with young families, fearful of deportation

Displaced Teachers

There are currently over 60 Afghan British Council teachers stuck in hotels in Islamabad. Many have been waiting there in limbo for over 9 months now. Most have young families, and several, like Nazila (pictured right) have given birth to children since they got to Pakistan.

All Fear Deportation

In less than a week, the Pakistan government will activate plans to evacuate Afghans illegally present in the country. Any Afghan staying in Pakistan without the correct documentation faces the prospect of eviction from 01st November onwards.

Sadly for all the Afghan BC teachers stuck in hotels and guesthouses in Islamabad, this new deportation policy directly affects them, as they are all living in Pakistan with expired visas, and so are at immediate risk of deportation, back to Afghanistan, and back to the Taliban.

Born to displaced parents

Having a baby in Afghanistan is hard enough, as hospitals and medical services are often basic at best. Having a child as a displaced Afghan living in a hotel or guest house in Islamabad is arguably much harder. Services are still basic, but the surroundings are unfamiliar, the culture is different and the support network is absent. 4 of the displaced British Council teachers have gone through this process of 'displaced childbirth', and a further 2 are in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Stuck indoors

One teacher, Nazila (pictured above), shares a single hotel room with her husband and two children. Her youngest child, Ahmad, is 9 months old and was born in Pakistan not long after Nazila escaped Afghanistan. Ahmad has lived his whole life in the same small hotel room.

As his mother is afraid of being arrested and deported, Ahmad almost never gets the chance to leave the hotel. Nazila feels that because her visa has expired, it’s simply too risky to take her son outside. The idea of being returned to Afghanistan with her young family fills her with dread.

No documentation

Shireen’s new child has also had a similarly limited early life. Shireen arrived in Pakistan in January 2023, and a few days after his arrival his wife gave birth to their second child, Mahmmud. He too has lived the entire 9 months of his life in a single hotel room. Shireen says the cramped conditions and uncertainty have made Mahmmud’s early life very difficult. He is currently trying to get a Passport for his son, though as a displaced Afghan with an expired visa, getting a new child’s passport in another country is very complicated.

Run down guest house

Another teacher, Javid, welcomed his son Yusuf in Pakistan 5 months ago. Again, as displaced people, the circumstances faced by Javid and his wife made having a child much more challenging. He told me that when the baby arrived only very limited medical care or assistance were available. Javid and his family occupy a single room in a run down guesthouse. They struggle with the dirty water and endless cockroaches, and dream of a different life.

Anxious parents

For these new parents, and all the other teachers stuck in Islamabad, the endless waiting is frustrating and the uncertainty makes for a stressful existence. Struggling to get decent food, medication and supplies for their new babies has caused the parents real anxiety during their time waiting in Islamabad. This anxiety has been heightened by recent police visits to hotels and guesthouses, as Pakistani authorities patrol areas of the city, questioning Afghans and reminding them of the impending November 01st eviction date.

What next?

The teachers are still hopeful that the UK Government will live up to previous promises, and get them safely evacuated to the UK as soon as possible. The recently announced deadline has suddenly made the ACRS relocation process a whole lot more urgent.

Let’s hope Rishi Sunak can implement policies to make the relocations happen as quickly as possible, before this shameful debacle enters another complex and dangerous phase.

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