Sunak answers our call: I’ll ask Home Office to investigate deportation of Afghan war hero

The prime minister pledged to look into the case of the Afghan pilot who arrived in Britain via a small boat and is facing deportation to Rwanda, as reported by The Independent

Kate Devlin
Politics and Whitehall Editor
,Holly Bancroft
Tuesday 28 March 2023 18:07 BST
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Rishi Sunak questioned on The Independent’s investigation on Afghan ‘hero’ facing deportation

Ministers will look into the case of an Afghan war veteran who served alongside British armed forces and has been threatened with deportation to Rwanda, Rishi Sunak has pledged.

The prime minister intervened after the air force lieutenant’s plight was highlighted by The Independent.

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

But he is among those who have fled to the UK on small boats. He says he was forced into hiding when the Taliban tookover Afghanistan in August 2021 and says it was “impossible” to make his way to Britain via a safe route.

Mr Sunak was pressed on his case by the Conservative MP and chair of the Commons Women and Equalities committee Caroline Nokes when he appeared in front of the Commons Liaison committee.

He told her he could not comment on individual cases but if the details were sent to him: “I’ll happily make sure the Home Office have a look”.

The veteran said he is one of many Afghan forces personnel who have been ‘forgotten’ by the US and British forces
The veteran said he is one of many Afghan forces personnel who have been ‘forgotten’ by the US and British forces (The Independent)

In the exchange Ms Nokes asked Mr Sunak how the government would support Afghans who worked alongside British forces but who had arrived to the UK on a small boat.

He responded saying “these are exactly the sort of people we want to help”. Mr Nokes pressed him, adding: “...which is why an Afghan pilot was highlighted in The Independent as having been given notification that he was likely to be removed to Rwanda.”

The pilot, whom we have agreed not to name in order to protect his family who are still in Afghanistan, is now living in a Home Office hotel for asylum seekers.

He told The Independent that Afghan military personnel have been “forgotten” by the American and British forces.

He said: “What safe and legal way was there after the fall of Afghanistan? You entered Afghanistan on the first day as a friendly and brotherly country, and now this bad day has come upon us. [The UK government should] keep the promise of friendship and cooperation that you made, and fulfil it.

“The American and British forces have forgotten us. We worked with them and we helped them like they were our brothers. We are not Talib, we are not Isis, so why are they leaving us like this?”

In an email to the pilot, a Home Office official wrote that while it had not yet made a final decision on his case, it had evidence that he had been in Italy, Switzerland and France before reaching the UK, which could have “consequences for whether your claim is admitted to the UK asylum system”.

Shadow defence secretary references The Independent’s investigation on Afghan refugees

“[The pilot] may also be removable to Rwanda under the terms of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership between Rwanda and UK,” the email read.

At the Liaison Committee on Tuesday, Mr Sunak was also grilled about the government’s Illegal Migration bill, which would see anyone who comes to the UK in a small boat deported and banned from returning.

He insisted that children would not be exempted from the plans to prevent the creation of a “pull factor”.

He told MPs that the new policy should include families to prevent an “incentive” for people to bring minors with them.

The new legislation could see asylum seekers detained indefinitely before being removed to a “safe” country like Rwanda. The bill has been denounced by the United Nations’ refugee agency as effectively an “asylum ban” and Labour has blasted it for giving the powers to “lock up children”.

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