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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

Visa update for Afghan British Council teachers stuck in Pakistan

Ongoing visa crisis

Last week the Pakistan government announced that they intend to deport Afghans resident in Pakistan who do not have valid, up-to-date visas. The reports come amidst rising levels of tension between the two countries, and increasing numbers of stories of harassment and threat to Afghans currently in Pakistan.

These developments have serious implications for the former British Council teachers stuck in limbo in hotels in Islamabad. Over 50 former BC teachers are currently in Pakistan, all with expired visas, and all facing the grim prospect of possible deportation back to Afghanistan and back to the Taliban regime they fled at the beginning of this year.

Frustrated & distressed teachers

A few glaring issues help frame the current predicament the teachers find themselves in. Firstly, the fact that they were unfairly excluded from the ARAP scheme in 2021 is still upsetting for the teachers. They all met the scheme’s criteria, and had they been treated fairly when the scheme was launched, they wouldn’t have spent the last 2 years suffering and in danger. Their managers at the British Council office in Kabul were all relocated prior to the Taliban takeover, but the teachers were left behind.

Secondly, for those in hotels in Islamabad, the fact they were specifically told to flee Afghanistan and go to Pakistan is also distressing, in light of the fact they are now at risk of deportation. These teachers were instructed to travel to Pakistan by the FCDO, where they were to await relocation to the UK. They arrived in Pakistan, expecting to wait a month, maybe two, but over 8 months later they are all still there.

The teachers cannot leave their hotels because their visas have expired, and they have no access to education or healthcare. One teacher who is heavily pregnant has been unable to see a doctor for the last 4 weeks because she is unable to leave her guest house. Her baby is due in 5 weeks’ time.

Tough conditions in Islamabad

The fear of deportation coupled with the lack of education and healthcare are all taking both a physical and mental toll on this group of teachers. The fact they cannot leave their hotels or guest houses for fear of deportation has led many to state that “we feel like we are stuck in a prison”.

The British High Commission in Islamabad recently contacted the teachers to give them an emergency phone number to call if they are questioned or threatened by the Pakistani police. Meanwhile, some teachers have been robbed or harassed by the local police, and still there has been no progress on their proposed relocation.

All the teachers continue to hope the FCDO can communicate with the IOM (International Organisation of Migration) to ensure they are not deported, and they continue to hope that the UK Government can accelerate the relocation process.

Still hopeful for a better tomorrow

Having spent over 2 years either in hiding, or stuck in cramped hotels, the teachers desperately want to move on from the threat and trauma they have experienced, and get on with the rest of their lives. Sadly, until the UK Government make good on their promise to relocate them to safety, the teachers cannot move forward.

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