Taliban threaten families of Chevening academics, MP says | Afghanistan
Afghan academics in Chevening are receiving threatening messages from the Taliban about what they intend to do to harm loved ones in their birthplace, according to their local MP, Caroline Lucas.
Nine of the 35 academics evacuated from Afghanistan were due to study at the University of Sussex in Brighton, but five of them were not allowed to take their families to safety with them. Foreign Ministry rules only allowed “immediate family” such as spouses or dependent children under the age of 18 on emergency evacuation flights.
Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said their families had elderly dependents or dependent siblings still in Afghanistan, and in all cases, the five fellows were the main breadwinners.
She said the five were “absolutely desperate for the safety of their families, with their anguish heightened by knowing that their families are in danger precisely because of their decision to accept their Chevening internships – internships that have left them in danger. distinguished as “collaborators” with the UK. ”Their names are withheld for security reasons.
Lukas said the fathers of two of the academics were murdered by the Taliban two years ago and they were receiving WhatsApp messages from the Taliban threatening the lives of the rest of their families.
One of the Chevening academics said he heard reports that the Taliban were trying to buy school-aged girls who were their parents.
Lucas said she had sought to raise the issue with the Foreign Ministry, Home Office and Chevening Secretariat, but encountered “deafening silence”.
She said the government had given no clear assurances to those still trying to leave Afghanistan on how they would be helped. The government has said it will accept 5,000 refugees in the first year and up to 20,000 over five years, but the program has yet to open.
Lucas said based on the number of British nationals from Afghanistan in his constituency seeking help, the program would be massively oversubscribed.
She said parliament went on vacation due to the party’s conference season with only the bare bones of the Afghan citizen resettlement program announced on August 20.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, she complained that the government was telling MPs that individuals had to wait for the program to open, with no indication of when that would be and apparently no idea how many of the 5,000 places for the first year were. already engaged.
Lucas said: “My estimate based on my workload is that there could be over 33,000 family members who meet the criteria for the program, not to mention those from the specified risk groups, so even 20,000 places. over five years are shamefully insufficient.
“The government does not seem to know how many of the 5,000 seats in the program will need to be allocated first to eligible Afghans already in the UK, such as 500 who were evacuated on Operation Pitting flights but did not qualify for the Arap. [the Afghan relocations and assistance policy], or to those who have crossed the border and are in refugee camps.
She added: “The government is also directing people towards a visa process which by its own admission is impossible to complete and, when operational, will carry all the usual charges and minimum income criteria.”
Part of the criteria for obtaining a visa is to provide biometric data, which is not available in Afghanistan. She said that at a minimum, visa waiver requirements were needed for immediate family members of British nationals still stranded in Afghanistan.
Overall, she writes: “The government’s response to one of the most significant humanitarian crises in recent history has so far been obscuration, backtracking, chaos and an apparent inability to understand the magnitude or seriousness of the problem.
The Home Office admitted: “There will be a lot more people seeking to come to the UK under the scheme than there are places.” He therefore took a thoughtful approach, working with international partners and non-governmental organizations to identify the most eligible people, he said. Anyone admitted to the scheme would be granted indefinite leave, the right to work and access to benefits if necessary.
Those who were part of the initial emergency evacuation have also been granted exceptional leave and no longer have to pay visa fees.
One of the challenges is that different government departments are responsible for different aspects of the program.