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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

At Last! A British Council teacher has been relocated to the UK from Afghanistan under ACRS.

Last Wednesday (29th March 2023) was a momentous day for the former British Council teachers still living in hiding in Afghanistan, as one of their colleagues finally landed safely in the UK.

The relocation of this teacher shows that the UK Government is fully aware of their responsibility to the abandoned teachers, and is well able to relocate them.

‘Aziz’ is the first Afghan British Council teacher to be relocated to the UK under the ACRS scheme (Afghan Citizens Relocation Scheme). He is also the first to be relocated since the fall of Afghanistan in August 2021. Like almost all the British Council teachers, his initial ARAP application was rejected, even though he met all the criteria for ARAP (Afghan Relocations & Assistance Policy). Since that rejection he has lived in great danger, in hiding in Afghanistan. Now he has been relocated to the UK, he is able to start a new life free from the constant fear of violence.

While last Wednesday was a good day for Aziz, for over 100 of his former colleagues, still in hiding in Afghanistan, it was just another dangerous day in a hostile country. A day made even more dangerous for them because of the work they did for the British Council.

The teachers employed by the British Council in Afghanistan were recruited to teach English and UK-values across Afghanistan. The work they did on behalf of the UK Government put them at serious risk, and is the reason they continue to live in fear today.

The Taliban never welcomed the presence of British organisations in Afghanistan, and have been directly hostile to the British Council on several occasions in the past. For example, in 2011 they launched a complex attack on the British Council compound in Kabul, resulting in 17 fatalities. There was a further Taliban attack on a British Council study centre in Kandahar in 2015. Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, a number of former British Council staff have been victims of Taliban hostility, from threats to actual physical violence, because of their association with the British Council.

What has been so disappointing for the teachers is the fact that the managers & office staff who worked in the British Council office in Kabul were all relocated to the UK prior to the fall of Afghanistan, while the vast majority of the teachers were left behind.

The teachers were not informed about the ARAP scheme by the British Council until it was far too late to apply, and they were not assisted in any way with their applications. Sadly, they were not recommended to the ARAP approvals team by the British Council, and so they were all rejected, even though they were eligible.

Their colleagues, the managers and office staff, were relocated prior to August 2021, and have all lived safely in the UK for over a year and a half now. It's great they are safe, but the double standards are hard to ignore. The inequality and exclusion is very jarring for this abandoned cohort of teachers, who were employed to teach Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) across a hostile country with belief systems very different to those of the UK.

Sadly, since the teachers were left behind, the British Council has done little to interact with them or support them. The organisation is reluctant to communicate with the teachers directly, claiming that their relocation is the responsibility of the ACRS team. As well as this, the BC has refused to financially support the teachers in obtaining visas and passports, essential travel documents to get out of Afghanistan.

Aziz has been in the UK since Wednesday 29th March. It’s now Monday 03rd April and the British Council still have not contacted him to welcome him to the UK, thank him for his services or recognize his struggles and the dangers he has faced. This is sad, as they should be very pleased and relived he has made it here safely. I know he is.

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