UK returned 13 Afghans in past year and refused asylum to 400, new official figures show

More than 130 Afghan nationals detained in UK removal centres since April despite Taliban advance

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 26 August 2021 18:56
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<p>Taliban fighters patrol the streets of Kabul </p>

Taliban fighters patrol the streets of Kabul

The UK has sent 13 Afghan nationals back to their home country in the past year and refused asylum to more than 400, official figures show.

Government data published on Thursday shows that 497 Afghans in the UK were placed in immigration detention in the year to June 2021, with 218 detained in the first six months of this year.

Thirteen of those detained were subsequently returned to Afghanistan, five of whom were removed since the start of 2021, two between April and June, according to the figures.

The data shows that in the year ending June 2021, 1,467 Afghans came to the UK in search of safety, and of the of 1,089 decisions made for this cohort during this period, 401 were refused - 140 of which were refused in 2021.

As of 30 June, 3,213 Afghans in the UK were awaiting an initial decision on their asylum claim. The Home Office has refused to say if it has halted the processing of their claims, despite deleting all key guidance documents that are used to decide them last week.

Ministers have meanwhile “paused” deportations of failed asylum seekers to Kabul but made no further commitment, despite announcing a new resettlement scheme that aims to bring 5,000 Afghans to the UK over the coming year.

The figures showing that Afghans claiming asylum in Britain have continued to be refused sanctuary, detained and removed in recent months have prompted alarm given the Taliban takeover in the country.

Shadow immigration ministers Bambos Charalambous told The Independent the government’s handling of events in Afghanistan had been “utterly chaotic”, and called on the Home Office to urgently revisit all their guidance on asylum applications from Afghans in light of the humanitarian crisis.

The Refugee Council is calling on the government to grant rapid protection to Afghans in search of safety in the UK, including by putting in place a simplified, fast-track procedure to ensure rapid decisions both to those already in the UK asylum system and for those lodging new refugee claims in the future.

The charity also called on ministers to immediately update official guidance used to inform decisions on whether people from Afghanistan are accepted as refugees in the UK to reflect the new context and ensure those fleeing persecution in Afghanistan are granted rapid protection.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “It is alarming that the latest official figures show that only just over half of decisions made on Afghan cases have been granted protection over the last year and that over 3,000 Afghans are awaiting news of their fate.

“All those currently waiting for a  decision must now be put through a simplified, fast-track process so they can safely rebuild their lives in the our country.”

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “The 13 people the UK has forcibly removed to Afghanistan this year and the thousands of others over the past decade will be at extreme risk from the Taliban.

“Where is the plan to help these people escape and give them safe passage to the UK? If Priti Patel wants to ensure she’s not sent people to execution and torture she needs to act urgently.”

It comes as Britain makes one last push to bring nearly 2,000 Afghan interpreters and staff out of the Afghan capital on Thursday in what is expected to be the final day of the RAF’s airlift operation.

With tensions rising as the 31 August deadline for the withdrawal of foreign forces approaches, one military source said there was “a very high risk of a terrorist attack” by suicide bomb or small arms fire against the UK’s 1,000-strong contingent in the final days before their departure.

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