Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy

Defence – in the House of Commons on 20th September 2021.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

How many people have been assessed as being eligible for support under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy since 28 August 2021.

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Since 28 August, 7,900 applications have been made to the ARAP scheme, of which 900 appear eligible from the MOD’s perspective. Obviously, there are Home Office checks that need to follow, and 50 applicants have thus far completed their Home Office checks and are being advised on how to proceed.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I thank the Minister for that answer, but I have cases of people who worked for the Afghan supreme court, the Afghan Government or the Afghan armed forces. Clearly, they assisted in our operations in Afghanistan. Surely the Minister accepts that these people are at severe risk and should qualify under category 1 of ARAP, yet they have been refused. In the figures he has just cited, how many people who clearly qualify for ARAP have been turned down?

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I have just given the numbers for those who have applied since 28 August. I completely accept that there will be interpretation but, having looked at a number of cases that we have been invited to review at ministerial level, I am satisfied that the right judgments are being made. I know that is a disappointment to many hon. Members who are working hard to support people in Afghanistan whom they consider to be at risk but, under the ARAP scheme, it is not possible for us to bring out everybody who has had a connection with UK armed forces. That is why the terms were set as tightly as they were. If the hon. Gentleman would like me to look at any particular cases, I look forward to having that in writing and I will do what I can.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Defence)

There is increasing confusion about the Government’s administration of the ARAP scheme. In response to a written question, the Minister said that 1,194 locally employed staff had been relocated by the end of August, yet in a further answer he suggested that only 850 applications had been processed in the same timeframe. This means that at least 344 people are unaccounted for. The Prime Minister says the figure is 311. Will the Minister, therefore, tell the House here and now how many applications were received between April and August, how many were accepted and how many have been left behind?

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I will write to the hon. Gentleman with the exact detail he requests. Some 15,000 people were brought out in the airlift, as I think he knows. The discrepancy he thinks he has found in the numbers he quotes relates to the fact that 311 people had been called forward—they had successfully applied and been cleared by UK Visas and Immigration for travel—but we were unable to get them on to a plane. That is different from the number of people who had applications in process at the time but had not been called forward for travel.

I know from all my engagements with colleagues on both sides of the House that they will understand that those two and a half weeks in Kabul were somewhat hectic. It will take some time for the dust to settle on exactly who is out and who we have yet to bring out, but we are still working very hard to do so. The security situation is dynamic and our partnerships in the region are being developed, but we have every confidence that we will be able to help those who need help.