Relocation from Afghanistan

Defence – in the House of Commons on 10th January 2022.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

What steps his Department is taking to support the relocation of (a) vulnerable Afghans and (b) British nationals from Afghanistan.

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

Clearly the movement of any vulnerable Afghan or British national from Afghanistan to the UK requires the co-operation of a third country. In the UK’s case, this has mostly been through Pakistan and we are very grateful to our friends in Islamabad for working with us. More than 2,000 people have come to the UK since the end of Operation Pitting, and we continue to work with partners in the region to facilitate the exit of more, through more routes.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

It is worth noting that the last speech Jack made to the House of Commons was on this very subject of standing by our friends in Afghanistan.

Given the unhealthy closeness of ties between parts of the Pakistani state and the Afghan Taliban, what assurances and assistance will the Minister give to Afghans in hiding in Pakistan, who may have been issued with UK visas, that they will not be deported back to Afghanistan by the Pakistani authorities when they present themselves at an airport, instead of being permitted to fly to the United Kingdom?

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

My right hon. Friend will know that we are flirting with operational detail that may be best kept private, but he and all colleagues should reassure those with whom they are in touch that everybody who has arrived in Pakistan with the correct paperwork has been facilitated by the British high commission to leave the country successfully. The challenge, as he might expect, is for those who do not have papers, which is a very live conversation not just with Islamabad but with our friends in other capitals around the region.

Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

How many ARAP families now in the United Kingdom have been granted indefinite leave to remain?

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

I fear this may be a red herring, inasmuch as indefinite leave to remain is an automatic part of the ARAP scheme. More than 5,000 ARAP-eligible personnel were brought out during Operation Pitting, and around 1,100 of the 2,000 who have come out since are also ARAPers. About another 150 or so ARAP principals from the original cohort who actually worked for us and were approved during Operation Pitting are left in Afghanistan, and we continue to work to bring them out. Of course, we are getting applications all the time. The ARAP entitlement is absolute and is not time limited. We will bring out anybody eligible who applies.