The UK government has announced that it will charter flights to relocate Afghan refugees living in Pakistan who have been promised UK visas. Many of these individuals worked with or for the UK government in Afghanistan and fled the Taliban, seeking relocation to the UK. However, due to delays and expired visas, they have been waiting in Pakistan for over a year. Recent government figures indicate that around 3,250 individuals on the UK’s relocation schemes are living in guest houses and hotels in Islamabad, with no legal access to work or schooling for their children.
Earlier this month, Pakistan announced plans to start deporting illegal migrants from 1 November, which has increased concerns among the refugees. The British authorities in Pakistan now consider this group to be “at risk of deportation,” according to a risk assessment document revealed in court. In response, the UK government has decided to charter several flights over the next few months, starting on Thursday. However, it is unclear how many people will be onboard the first flight or how many will be relocated before the 1 November deadline.
Many refugees are anxious about the uncertainty surrounding the flights and fear being sent back to Afghanistan. Some have reported instances of police raiding accommodation and detaining individuals on the UK relocation schemes who do not have the necessary documents. The Taliban government has declared amnesty for those who worked with international forces, but many refugees still feel at risk. The situation is particularly concerning for individuals with families, as prolonged delays could have significant consequences. The UK government’s decision to find longer-term accommodation for the refugees in Pakistan was intended to save costs, but it has resulted in extended waiting periods and increased anxiety among those seeking relocation to the UK.
Overall, the charter flights offer hope for Afghan refugees stuck in Pakistan, but the lack of clarity and the approaching deportation deadline have created fear and uncertainty among the affected individuals.