UK

‘Afghan asylum claims 10 times number of those arriving in resettlement schemes’

Campaigners said Afghans have been ‘failed’ by Government resettlement schemes (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Campaigners said Afghans have been ‘failed’ by Government resettlement schemes (Dominic Lipinski/PA) Campaigners said Afghans have been ‘failed’ by Government resettlement schemes (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The number of asylum applications from Afghans was 10 times the number of people from Afghanistan who resettled to the UK in the year to September under schemes set up in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

People from Afghanistan were the most common nationality applying for asylum to the UK in that period, with 10,305 applications made, according to Home Office figures.

Meanwhile, 1,110 Afghans arrived in the year to September under the legal routes created by the Home Office following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in 2021, figures also show.

Arrivals under the schemes were down from 5,346 in the year to September 2022.

Under the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) – which is split into three pathways – 224 people were resettled in the UK in the year to September 2023, the latest statistics published on Thursday showed.

A total of 96 of those were under 18.

Some 886 arrived under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), of whom more than half (501) were under 18.

The schemes have previously faced criticism from campaigners and charities which branded them too slow and suggested people desperately fleeing the Taliban have felt forced to make dangerous Channel crossings instead.

Katie Morrison, chief executive of the Safe Passage charity which campaigns for the rights of refugees, said the Government is “failing to help Afghans through the schemes”.

She said: “This Government urgently needs to offer Afghan refugees protection here, help families to reunite, fix the broken schemes and open new safe routes, like a refugee visa, for refugees fleeing these dire situations.”

Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi, from the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association, which has been working with Afghan refugees, told PA the situation remains “very frustrating” for people – both those who have arrived here and want their families to be able to join them, and those who do not qualify under the schemes.

The ACRS, which began in January 2022, prioritised people who had assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan as well as vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk.

The Arap scheme, which launched in April 2021, is for Afghan citizens who worked for or with the UK Government in Afghanistan.

Dr Nasimi is among those to have previously called for a Homes for Afghans scheme, similar to the Homes for Ukraine scheme set up in the wake of the Russian invasion.

He said various international crises appear to have left the British Government “unable to fulfil their moral obligation towards the people of Afghanistan”.

Laura Kyrke-Smith, executive director of the International Rescue Committee UK, branded it “inexcusable” that the government had not established wider safe routes for Afghans fleeing persecution.

She said: “Today’s latest irregular migration statistics reveal that, despite repeated promises, Afghans continue to make up the largest nationality of individuals crossing the Channel.

“It is inexcusable that the government has failed to deliver the promise of safe routes for these refugees to get here.”

Data for asylum claims from small boat arrivals for June to September 2023 was not published on Thursday, due to what the Home Office referred to as a “transition to a new data system”.

As of September, a total of 21,673 people have arrived under the Afghan resettlement schemes since they were set up.