Lack of safe routes leaves Afghan refugees to make dangerous journeys to UK, warns Refugee Council - Refugee Council
December 20, 2021

Lack of safe routes leaves Afghan refugees to make dangerous journeys to UK, warns Refugee Council

The failure of the Government to implement the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme and other safe routes such as family reunion has forced thousands of vulnerable Afghans to make dangerous journeys from their homeland to seek safety in the UK, the Refugee Council is warning today.

The latest official data highlighted by the charity shows the number of asylum applications from Afghanistan tripled in the period from July to September 2021 following the fall of Kabul in August. The data suggests that without access to safe routes, Afghans fleeing danger in their country have been left with no other choice than to make dangerous journeys to seek safety.

The data shows the number of asylum applicants to the UK from Afghanistan rose from 435 between April and June to 1,093 between July and September, almost three times the number. Taliban forces took control of Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul during a military offensive against the Afghan government in August, causing the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

Four months after the Government committed to bringing another 5,000 Afghans to the UK this year and a further 15,000 in future years as part of a new resettlement scheme the scheme has yet to open. The Refugee Council is calling on the Government to urgently implement the scheme. It is also calling on the government to:

  • Expand the family reunion rules so relatives are not torn apart by the Afghan crisis through no fault of their own.
  • Prioritise all asylum cases from Afghanistan so decisions are made more quickly. The most recent Home Office data shows there are more than 4,000 Afghans awaiting a decision on their asylum claim with nearly 2,500 waiting more than six months.
  • Rethink the Nationality and Borders Bill so Afghans, and other people seeking asylum, are not treated differently based on how they reach the UK

Given the very limited options for people fleeing persecution and violence to reach the UK safely, they too often have no choice but to embark on perilous, life-threatening journeys to reach the UK. This often sees them making terrifying journeys across other countries and for some it ends with them having to cross the Channel. Last month 27 refugees tragically lost their lives whilst trying to cross the Channel in a small boat to reach the safety of UK shores. It was reported that people fleeing Afghanistan were sadly involved in this tragedy.

Alongside providing a safe and legal route for people from Afghanistan to the UK, the Government must provide extra financial support for councils to enable them to support families to successfully settle in local communities. This must include support with accessing English Language lessons, comprehensive help to find sustainable employment, including skills training, and access to culturally appropriate mental health services.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:

“It is surprising that four long months since the fall of Kabul and the Government committed to the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme it isn’t up and running yet. Afghans have been left with a heart-breaking choice. Either they stay in a country where they fear for their lives every day or take the gut-wrenching decision to leave and embark on a dangerous journey in an attempt to reach safety.

Back in August, the Government worked hard to respond to this unprecedented situation, but that initial support has waned and we have seen more limited action to help the people we owe a huge debt to. It is critical the Government brings forward the scheme they promised and help provide the safe routes and support these people both desperately need and deserve.

It’s important to remember that under the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, anyone reaching the UK from Afghanistan who does not arrive under a resettlement scheme could be prosecuted and sent to prison for having entered the country unlawfully. This Bill will slam the door in the face of many Afghans fleeing persecution and oppression. The government must rethink its proposals and ensure all Afghans can be given protection irrespective of how they arrived in the UK.”

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