LONDON: British ministers have been accused of failing to honor their promises to Afghan refugees by refusing to house their family members.
Around 12,000 Afghan refugees are still living in hotels paid for by the British taxpayer, with ministers blaming the delay on a housing shortage.
When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year, the British government told refugees that their family members would be allowed to join them once they were evacuated.
But The Times newspaper said that 10 months after Kabul’s collapse, around 6,500 refugees were still prevented from joining family members in the UK because they had not yet been granted refugee status.
The newspaper quoted government sources as saying ministers were forced to adjust the family reunification policy because the average family size of those involved is 6.7 and housing rules regulations meant that houses larger ones were needed to house them.
By contrast, the average household size in Britain is three people, and much of the local government housing is built around that figure.
Hossain Saeedi, 37, told The Times he was evacuated with his wife and children, but his request to bring in his ex-wife, who is the mother of his son, was denied.
He said: “Afghan family reunification cases have been overshadowed by the new program for Ukrainian refugees.”
The 6,500 Afghans excluded from refugee status have been admitted under the Ministry of Interior’s Pathway 1 programme. In September, the government indicated that family members would be allowed to join other refugees, but did not demonstrate how this would be achieved.
The Interior Ministry said the 6,500 evacuees from Afghanistan who were unable to travel with loved ones would be offered “options” to join them “in due course”.
“Around 6,500 people have been brought to safety in the UK during and after the evacuation from Afghanistan who are eligible for the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme and have been granted clearance to remain under Track 1. Although they do not hold refugee status, those who were evacuated were able to bring their immediate family members, including spouse or partner and children under the age of 18,” the government said.
The delay in family reunification comes as a letter from several charity figures accuses the government of treating Afghans unfairly over Ukrainians, who received two visa schemes to reunite family members, warning that this could have serious consequences for their mental health.
The letter, signed by the CEOs of Amnesty International, British Red Cross, Oxfam, Refugee Council, Safe Passage, Student Action for Refugees, UNHCR and Voices Network, read: “Ten months later, these families remain separated. This is despite the government indicating, as early as September 2021, that family members would be eligible to join those who had been evacuated.
“Prolonged separation is hard on families and can have serious mental health implications.
“We have seen how the government has acted to bring Ukrainian families together through the Ukraine Family Scheme. They must now act with the same urgency to safely reunite Afghan evacuees with their loved ones. »