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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

Fears of deportation grow for displaced Afghan British Council teachers in Pakistan

The Afghan British Council teachers stuck in hotels in Islamabad are growing increasingly fearful of being deported back to Pakistan, and back to the Taliban.

The Pakistan government recently announced a crackdown on Afghans illegally present in the country, stating that all those without the correct documentation would face deportation back to Afghanistan from the beginning of November onwards, and with that deadline now only a week away, many Afghans in Pakistan are becoming more and more afraid.

At present there are over 60 Afghan British Council teachers stuck in hotel rooms in Islamabad. These teachers have all been approved for relocation to the UK under the ACRS scheme, and were all specifically instructed to leave Afghanistan and travel to Pakistan by the FCDO. Many of these teachers have been waiting in limbo in their hotels for over 9 months.

Taliban targets

For all those who managed to flee the Taliban and make it to Pakistan, the prospect of deportation is obviously terrifying. No one would want to be sent back to such a cruel and inhumane regime, least of all these British Council teachers, a number of whom have already been victims of Taliban persecution.

The fact the teachers were employed to teach British values, (such as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)) puts them at even greater risk if they are deported back to Afghanistan, as the work they did is so at odds with the values and beliefs of the Taliban.

Ongoing challenges

For the At Risk Teachers, it's hard living in single hotels rooms with young or new born children. It’s tough being unable to go out for fear of arrest. It’s depressing not having access to education or healthcare. It’s frustrating not being allowed to work. It’s annoying not knowing if or when you will get the call to be relocated to a new life. Its infuriating to be endlessly waiting for a call that may or may not come. But, most of all, it’s terrifying to know that any day now you could be rounded up and sent back into the arms of the Taliban.

The last 2 years have been very fraught for the teachers. When the Taliban first took power, they all went into hiding in their home country. A number were victims of actual Taliban violence in the months that followed. Gradually, more and more of them were accepted onto the UK Government’s ACRS scheme, and made their way to Pakistan, expecting to be relocated to the UK, but they have all spent far too long waiting in cramped hotels rooms in Islamabad.

In recent weeks a number of them have been questioned by police, or had local police visit their guesthouses. The prospect of deportation is very real and present.

Hopes for the future

All the teachers have the same hope, to be safely relocated to the UK as soon as possible. They all share the same fear too, deportation back to the Taliban regime they fled.

Hopefully the UK Government can act quickly to arrange temporary accommodation in the UK for this group of at risk teachers. They did dangerous work across Afghanistan at our request, and were unfairly left behind. Some had worked for the British Council for more than 10 years prior to being abandoned by the organisation.

The UK Government must now do everything they can to get the teachers relocated as soon as possible. While this will not make amends for the fact they were unfairly excluded from the ARAP scheme, or the fact they have been forced to live the last 2 years in hiding or in limbo in hotels, it will allow them to get on with the rest of their lives free from fear.

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