The Memo: Afghans awaiting UK visas in Pakistan threatened with expulsion

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Afghans awaiting UK visas in Pakistan threatened with expulsion

James Westmacott – 6 November 2023

It comes as little surprise that Afghanistan’s troubled recent history has resulted in a flurry of refugees desperate to re-locate their lives in search of a safer future. Migration Observatory has estimated that over 20,000 Afghan asylum seekers and refugees were granted settlement in the UK since March this year, as the Taliban’s stranglehold of the country got ever tighter.

The two schemes the UK runs in order to aid Afghan settlement in Britain - the Afghan Relocation and Assistance policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) – are reserved for those who’ve worked closely with UK forces and authorities, and those involved in British-run civil schemes respectively, as well as those hailing from vulnerable minority groups. But UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed his desire to more rigorously manage the flow of ARAP cases in an attempt to cut costs for the British taxpayer, whilst authorities seek out more suitable accommodation once asylum seekers arrive.

One of the great difficulties in obtaining a UK visa for Afghan refugees lies in the fact that there is no way for the UK to process visas in Afghanistan due to Taliban rule, leaving many Afghans faced with having to risk their lives in crossing the border into Pakistan (where UK visas can be offered). But not everyone has documentation, which Afghan citizens need, firstly to enter Pakistan, and secondly to enter the UK. To make matters worse, fears have arisen that Pakistan will soon start a crackdown on undocumented and illegal migrants. Even those who have been in Pakistan legally with the relevant visa are under threat however. Those with the documentation permitting their stay in Pakistan may since have seen it expire due to the UK’s slow response. This has left many staring deportation down the barrel, which itself is yet another ground for UK visa refusal.

This story remains a world away from the UK visa requirements for much of the Western world. Whilst the process of obtaining a permit can still on occasions be problematic, generally speaking, a valid passport, a completed visa application form, proof of accommodation & financial well-being, educational & professional qualifications, and advanced English language proficiency would be sufficient, whilst those from Europe and the Anglosphere (in fact, most of the world) also wouldn’t need to leave their home country in order for their visa to be processed.

It has been argued that the British government’s recent move to slow Afghan application processing has also severely heightened the danger to the lives of many Afghan people, left in limbo as their current plight sees no tangible end.


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