‘They deserve better’: Bear Grylls backs our campaign to stop Afghan war pilot from being deported to Rwanda

‘It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that so many people don’t have the luxury of avoiding a catastrophe,’ says TV adventurer

Jane Dalton
Sunday 02 April 2023 14:46 BST
Rishi Sunak questioned on The Independent’s investigation on Afghan ‘hero’ facing deportation

Bear Grylls has backed our campaign calling on the government not to deport an Afghan war hero who supported British forces to Rwanda, urging ministers to “do right by those who have given so much to keep us safe”.

Grylls, a former SAS soldier and now a survivalist and television adventurer, joins the former head of Nato, Labour leader Keir Starmer and army chiefs in calling on Rishi Sunak to support Afghan heroes who served alongside British forces.

The Afghan pilot is being threatened with deportation to Rwanda after arriving in Britain on a small boat because there was no safe and legal route to escape the Taliban.

He has told how during the chaos of the Kabul evacuation, he and other members of his squadron were left behind. But he said his wife begged him to flee to safety without her.

The Independent has launched a petition calling for the UK to support Afghan war heroes who served alongside Britain.

In an opinion piece for this website, Grylls writes: “Imagine braving the horrors of war to support the forces of a country that you don’t even live in, only to find that when you travel to that country for genuine sanctuary from horror, torture and the many other dangers of your own country (braving even more hardships along the way), you’re told that you aren’t acknowledged or wanted.”

The presenter, famous for demonstrating survival tactics in dangerous environments, wrote: “In the midst of the UK’s often heated debates surrounding immigration, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that so many people don’t have that luxury of avoiding a catastrophe.”

He added: “Men like him put their lives on the line to help protect people like you and me.

(The Independent)

“They deserve better than to be told that they aren’t welcome in a country where they’ve performed an invaluable and brave service.”

The Afghan pilot flew 30 combat missions against the Taliban, and was praised by his coalition forces supervisor as a “patriot to his nation”.

He says he spent months travelling by car, lorry and boat to get to Europe, paying €10,000 to a smuggler to get from Turkey to Italy, where the authorities threatened him with imprisonment.

He has now appealed directly to the prime minister to be granted permission to remain in the UK.

The backing of Afghan fighters was vital to the success of British missions in the country’s war.

It comes as we revealed that hundreds of Afghans who are eligible to come to the UK because they worked with the British forces have been abandoned in Pakistan after the government stopped charter flights to bring them to safety.

Lord Robertson, former secretary general of Nato and a former UK defence secretary, said: “We owe a huge debt to people like him and in decency we should give him the respect and safety he deserves.”

Sir Keir said: “It’s a disgrace that this brave pilot who fought alongside British troops is facing deportation at the hands of the government’s unworkable gimmick.”

Grylls writes: “Not only do they deserve better; we stand united against any government that will happily abandon the brave ally soldiers who have served this country just because their passport isn’t the right colour.

“So please, join me in supporting The Independent’s petition.”

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