Afghanistan: Six people posing ‘direct threat’ to UK detected among would-be Kabul evacuees

Four people on Britain’s ‘no-fly list’ were prevented from boarding planes, while one made it to Frankfurt before being intercepted, and one reached Birmingham

Celine Wadhera
Tuesday 24 August 2021 10:26
Afghan evacuees arrive at RAF Brize Norton base in Oxfordshire
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Security checks detected six people who were deemed to pose a “direct threat” to the UK among would-be evacuees from Kabul.

In a briefing call on Monday, MPs were told that the individuals who were on Britain’s “no-fly list” had attempted to leave Afghanistan with the help of the UK, Sky News reported.

A Border Force official said that four of the people had been prevented from flying in Kabul, but two had successfully boarded planes. One was stopped in Frankfurt where he was blocked from continuing his journey, but his family was permitted to proceed to the UK. The other reached Birmingham airport.

Upon further investigation, the government said that the person who reached Birmingham is no longer considered to be a threat, and no further action would be taken.

A Home Office spokesperson said in a statement: “An individual was flagged to the Home Office as part of the rigorous checks process, involving the police, security services and others.

“However, upon further investigation, they are not a person of interest to the security agencies or law enforcement.”

During the briefing call, a junior immigration minister warned that there has been a significant increase in the number of people on the “no-fly list” trying to access the UK.

“We’ve had more hits on our no-fly list, that is people who are a direct threat to this country if they were able to come here, in the last week in the context of Afghanistan … than we would normally expect in a year of normal flights and travel,” said Kevin Foster, the Home Office minister.

He added that while the UK must help those who are in danger from the Taliban, the government must be “mindful” of people who pose a threat to the UK.

British officials at Kabul airport have been warning of a spike in impersonations, forged passports, and falsified travel documents amid a credible threat that Islamic State militants are targeting British soldiers and officials in Afghanistan.

Armed forces minister James Heappey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We would love to be able to just open the gates and let people in, an even faster flow.

“But there are people right now in Kabul trying to get onto British flights that we have identified in our checks as being on the UK no-fly list.

“So the checks that are being done are entirely necessary because there are people trying to take advantage of this process to get into the UK to cause harm.”

He added that there was “a real threat that our troops are facing” from militants in Kabul.

On the call with MPs, Sir Laurie Bristow, Britain’s ambassador to Kabul, said that the Islamic State in Afghanistan had been strengthened as a result of the “over-running of jails in the final week of the military campaign”.

He added that “a lot of other violent radicals were let out” and security forces were actively tracking Isis-KP, the Islamic State in Afghanistan, who he said is opposed to western forces as well as the Taliban. He described the group’s intentions as “wholly violent”.

A significant effort remains underway to run security checks on each applicant for evacuation as thoroughly and quickly as possible, in order to get desperate Afghans out of the country ahead of the mission’s 31 August deadline.

Despite the urgency, the government has insisted that comprehensive checks are still ongoing.

“There are people in Afghanistan who represent a serious threat to national security and public safety,” a government spokesperson said.

“That is why thorough checks are taking place by government, our world-class intelligence agencies and others. If someone is assessed as presenting as a risk to our country, we will take action.”

Over the past 24 hours, 1,821 people were evacuated on eight flights from Kabul. Evacuation flights have been landing first in Dubai, before continuing on to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire or Birmingham airport, where all evacuees are processed by immigration staff and taken to Covid quarantine facilities. On Monday, a Border Force official said that around 230 passengers had arrived in Birmingham in the past day.

Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Britain has evacuated some 7,000 people from the country, 4,226 of whom were Afghans, the Ministry of Defence has said, but many more remain in country and the government has warned that the UK will not be able to evacuate everyone it hopes to by next Tuesday.

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