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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

Will Afghan British Council teachers be allocated flights out of Pakistan or be left behind again?

The UK Government needs to clarify relocation plans for the 60+ Afghan British Council teachers stuck in hotels and guesthouses in Islamabad.

Threat of deportation:

The Pakistan Government recently stated it planned to deport all Afghans present in the country without up-to-date visas. This announcement sent shock waves of fear through the community of displaced Afghans waiting in Pakistan, as they all dread the prospect of being deported back to the Taliban regime they fled.

The teachers were specifically told to leave Afghanistan and head to Pakistan by the UK Government. They are among over 3000 Afghans waiting to be relocated from Pakistan to the UK, under 2 British Government schemes, the MoD administered ARAP scheme and the FCDO administered ACRS scheme. Both these schemes were designed to ensure the safety of Afghans who assisted the UK-effort in Afghanistan, and who were in danger as a result.

Taliban persecution:

The teachers all qualify for relocation via the ACRS scheme because of the work we recruited them to do for us, and the fact it put them at great risk. The Taliban have a history of attacking British Council employees and premises. Since they seized power many of the teachers have been specifically targeted, with a number being the victims of Taliban attacks and brutality.

Abandoned before:

Back in 2021, when the UK pulled out of Afghanistan, the British Council made sure they got all their managers and office staff out of the country on the ARAP scheme, but almost all the teachers were left behind, even though they all met the criteria for the scheme. After over a year living in hiding in Afghanistan, they started to move to Pakistan, under the advice of the FCDO. Most have been stuck waiting in Pakistan for at least 9 months now.

New Government relocation plans:

Pakistan’s recent announcement that they plan to deport Afghans led to the UK-government releasing details of a new plan to fast-track the relocation of our Afghan allies waiting in Pakistan. Initial reports stated that 12 charter flights were scheduled for November and December to relocate all the ARAP and ACRS eligible Afghans waiting in Islamabad, but emails the teachers have received from the FCDO specifically state that the flights are just for ARAP-applicants, not ACRS-applicants.

Left behind again?

The teachers feel like they are being 'de-prioritised'. They have already been abandoned once. Back in August 2021, when the British Council managers and office staff were relocated to the UK, the teachers were left behind. This exclusion was morally wrong and is still unexplained. Whether or not the Foreign Affairs Select Committee conduct an investigation into how this was allowed to happen remains to be seen. Either way, over 2 years on, the teachers fear that they are once again being overlooked. They continue to hope the UK Government and FCDO will clarify their plans to relocate those stuck in Pakistan, and ensure all ACRS-eligible Afghans get the fair treatment they have been promised.

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