UK government tightens criteria for Afghan relocation policy

UK government tightens criteria for Afghan relocation policy
The UK government has changed the criteria for Afghans who worked with British Armed Forces and are applying for resettlement in the UK. Critics say the new measures are 'hardly the warm welcome promised'.
3 min read
15 December, 2021
The UK government says it has helped over 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan. Some predications say up to 150,000 people applied for relocation schemes [Getty-file photo]

The UK government has tightened the criteria required for Afghans who worked British Armed Forces in Afghanistan and want to relocate to the UK following the Taliban's takeover. 

The UK Home Office announced the policy changes Tuesday, narrowing eligibility for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) without opening up their additional Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). 

The ARAP scheme is for people who were currently or formally employed directly by the British government during their 20-year mission in Afghanistan. The ACRS scheme, proposed in August, promised protection for people who assisted the British efforts in Afghanistan or are deemed especially vulnerable, such as women or members of ethnic minorities.  

The UK was part of a US-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan in 2000, overthrowing the Taliban government that was accused of harbouring Al-Qaeda.  

"This is hardly the warm welcome promised," said Zoe Bantleman, Legal Director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, to The New Arab.

"Those who do not meet the stringent ARAP criteria cannot resort to the ACRS, and the UK is offering no specific safe route for them or their families to come to the UK."


Changes to the rules mean that those directly employed in Afghanistan by a UK government department on or after 1 October 2001 must have a "high and imminent risk" to their life to come to the UK. Under the previous rules, they only needed to show there was an "imminent" risk. 

People employed in an exposed role by a UK government department or who provided linguistic services must show as a result of public recognition for performing their role, their personal safety is at risk. 

In another category, an applicant must now demonstrate that during their employment or work for the British government, they made a "substantive and positive contribution towards the achievement of UK government’s military objectives…[or] national security objectives". 

"Whilst clarification of the criteria in the ARAP rules is welcome, it is unclear why the rules for entry clearance for Afghans who helped the UK are being narrowed at this time," Bantleman said.

Bantleman said the changes were even more alarming considering the House of Commons passed the Nationality and Borders Bill last week.

The bill creates a framework based on a refugee's means of arrival to the UK to determine the treatment they receive and whether they have committed a criminal offence. This violates international law according to the UNHCR.

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The UK's Afghan policy also came under fire last week, following a whistleblower's account of the "chaotic" and "dysfunctional" evacuations in August. 

A former Foreign Officer employee, Raphael Marshall, claimed the department was inadequately staffed and lacked the essential skills needed to handle the crisis after Kabul fell to the Taliban. 

He estimated that up to 150,000 people applied for relocation to the UK. But only five percent received help. 

UK Minister for Afghan Resettlement Victoria Atkins said the UK has helped over 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan in "the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history". 

"We are now updating the ARAP Immigration Rules to make clear who is eligible to apply under the scheme, enable more families to remain together, and offer support to those who need it most," she said. 

"The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) will soon open and is one of the most generous schemes in our country’s history," Atkins said.