An RAF flight carrying Afghans arrives in UK earlier this month (Picture: MOD).

Processing 'not yet started' in more than a quarter of Afghan resettlement applications

Under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, 85,000 applications have been received with the processing of 24,000 yet to begin.

An RAF flight carrying Afghans arrives in UK earlier this month (Picture: MOD).

The UK is yet to start the processing of about 28% of applications received under a relocation scheme for Afghans, a minister has revealed. 

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said on Wednesday that, to date, some 85,000 applications under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) have been received, with 24,000 "not yet started".

Responding to a question from Labour MP Rachael Maskell, Mr Heappey said in a written statement that processing has been completed for 57,000 applications, with 4,000 "in progress".

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Mr Heappey, a former Army officer who served in Afghanistan, said: "We have received a huge number of applications for the ARAP scheme, the vast majority since the beginning of August.

"Substantial resource has been dedicated to processing these applications, which is a very high priority.

"The ARAP team are working hard to process these applications, with older applications being the first priority," he added.

The scheme is designed to help vulnerable Afghans flee the country, now under Taliban rule, to the UK.

James Heappey Profile Outside Parliament 121218 CREDIT PA.jpg
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said older applications are the "first priority" (Picture: PA).

The group rapidly took control of Afghanistan in August as Western forces withdrew.

Hundreds of British troops were sent to the capital Kabul to evacuate UK nationals and those eligible for relocation to the UK as part of Operation Pitting amid a worsening security situation.

More than 15,000 people were airlifted to safety in just over a fortnight during Op Pitting, with its conclusion bringing an end to the UK's 20-year campaign in Afghanistan.

Extra repatriation flights and individual relocations have been taking place since the end of August.

Last week, the Ministry of Defence said the first military airlifts since Op Pitting came to a close had arrived in the UK, carrying more than 102 people who had left Afghanistan from an unnamed third country across two flights. 

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said on Wednesday that more than 900 people had left Afghanistan for the UK in the weeks following Op Pitting.

He told the House of Commons: "Since August 28 over 500 more individuals eligible to come to the UK have been able to leave Afghanistan, as well as more than 400 British nationals and their dependents.

"We have assisted over 135 British nationals and their dependents to leave Afghanistan on Qatar-chartered flights.

"The total number of people who may be eligible is almost impossible for us to assess with clarity."

Barnsley Central Labour MP Dan Jarvis had earlier asked for more information on what the Government is doing "to ensure that those who risked their lives "for us" are afforded safe passage out of Afghanistan.

The Army veteran said hundreds of people, "including men that I served alongside", remain stranded in Afghanistan, with many being hunted by the Taliban.

"Some have already been murdered, all because of their association with us," he said.