Afghanistan

Only two Afghan resettlement applications processed since April, Labour says

The shadow defence secretary says he has seen figures and says he fears the ARAP scheme has ground to a halt.

Britain has a "moral duty" to help the Afghans who supported British Forces in Afghanistan, according to the shadow defence secretary.

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) relocation scheme for Afghans who worked alongside British forces has reportedly processed only two applications since April.

John Healey has told Forces News he has seen the figures – and has written to the Defence Secretary calling for urgent action.

The scheme, which launched on 1 April 2021, offers relocation or other assistance to former Locally Employed Staff (LES) in Afghanistan to reflect the changing situation in the country since the Taliban took control.

John Healey says he fears the ARAP scheme has ground to a halt, with a backlog of more than 20,000 applications awaiting a decision. 

A report in The Times revealed that the Government has only processed two of more than 3,000 months-old applications for sanctuary submitted by Afghans who worked with the UK.

The revelations also come amid reports that the number of people working on the ARAP scheme has been slashed by a quarter since December.

Mr Healey added: "This ARAP scheme is something that has strong all-party support. It honours the debt we owe to those Afghans who worked alongside our forces, often at great risk to themselves and their family.

"But this is a scheme which looks like it's failing now. It looks as if it's been allowed to wither by the MOD. And it's ground to a halt."

When asked why did he think the scheme had ground to a halt, the shadow defence secretary said: "One thing is clear, which is that in other answers I've got from the MOD, they've cut by a quarter the staffing working on the ARAP scheme since December.

"And since then, of course, the backlog has gotten a lot bigger, and the proportion of applications being processed has fallen through the floor." 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the schemes to relocate Afghans after Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called into question the scheme's low numbers in processed applications.

The MP for Brighton, Pavilion said: "It's emerged that there is a backlog of 23,000 applications under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), with just two of 3,000 applications for refuge by Afghans who worked for Britain processed since April."

She added: "Yet at the same time staff working on the Arap scheme have been slashed by a quarter since December. This is an incredible betrayal of the Afghan people who put their lives on the line to work for our country."

In response, the Prime Minister said: "I'm afraid that she is underestimating what this country is already doing for the people of Afghanistan. I think, on Armed Forces Day, we should celebrate Op Pitting that brought 15,000 out and, of course, I am very happy to look at the cases that she wants to raise and we will do our best for them and for their families."

He added: "But this House should be in no doubt of the generous welcome that we continue to give to people from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Ukraine, from Hong Kong. We have a record to be very proud of."

Cover image: MOD.