A group of Afghan refugees locked in Covid quarantine after fleeing the Taliban have today been seen looking out the windows of their hotels, as outside a row brews on their future accommodation.
The refugees were today seen looking out from the windows of their rooms at the Raddison Park Inn hotel in Manchester city centre.
It is where some of the 15,000 refugees rescued from the grips of the Taliban have been staying in quarantine since being evacuated from Afghanistan.
Ministers say around 10,000 refugees are currently in hotel quarantine – where they will have to stay for at least 10 days under the UK’s strict red-list travel rules.
Many of the refugees are due to be released from quarantine in the coming days, sparking ministers to launch a rapid search for temporary accommodation.
It comes as it was revealed that just a third of local councils have signed up to the Government’s scheme to help resettle Afghan refugees.
As few as 100 councils – around a third of the 333 local authorities in England – have so far come forward to help families find homes under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), officials say.
Officials say they are working ‘at speed’ on ways to rehouse the thousands of Afghan refugees who have so far been evacuated.
The Government could turn to using holiday parks for ‘bridging accommodation’ due to a shortage of available housing.
Ministers also faces a clash with council chiefs, who have raised concerns about the possible impact on their social housing stocks.
Some council bosses are asking the private sector to offer up accommodation as a way to avoid using their social housing stocks to house refugees.
Victoria Atkins, the minister in charge of leading efforts to resettle Afghans refugees in the UK, said she remained ‘confident’ that more authorities would join the scheme.
But she admitted more council houses needed to be built. Speaking to LBC during a round of interviews this morning, Ms Atkins said: ‘We continue all of our work on social housing and affordable housing. We need to get more houses built.
‘But we have to face facts, we have 10,000 people staying in quarantine hotels today.
‘I’ve got to get them out of quarantine over the coming days into probably bridging accommodation, because, I’ve got to be frank, we haven’t got the housing stock to put them straight into homes.’
Asked by host Nick Ferrari if Afghan refugees would be allowed to ‘skip the housing list’ over people who have been on ‘waiting list for some years’, she said: ‘I don’t think it’s quite as clear cut as that.’
She later added: ‘We’ve got to do this in a way that’s fair to British people.’
Ms Atkins’ comments came as:
- Dominic Raab today revealed he is heading to the Afghanistan region; He also told MPs Britain had believed it was ‘unlikely’ Kabul would fall to the Taliban this year;
- Meanwhile spy chiefs have begun discussions with the Taliban over safe passage for Brits and Afghans left behind after troops withdrew – amid claims 9,000 UK allies may be stranded;
- However a former MI6 boss warned the UK terror threat is now a ‘notch greater’ because of exit from Afghanistan;
- MP Tom Tugendhat also blasted the Taliban after they claimed foreigners will be allowed out of Afghanistan as it emerges MI6 discussed safe passage for Brits with the group;
- Meanwhile, it was reported that leaked emails revealed how UK embassy staff ‘advised evacuees to go to site of blast despite warning threat was imminent’
A group of Afghan refugees locked in Covid quarantine after fleeing the Taliban have today been seen looking out the windows of their hotels, as outside a row brews on their future accommodation
The refugees were seen looking out from the windows of their rooms at the Raddison Park Inn hotel in Manchester city centre, where they have been staying in quarantine since being evacuated from red-list Afghanistan. Today ministers revealed that 10,000 refugees are currently in hotel quarantine – where they will have to stay for at least 10 days under the UK’s strictest travel rules.
Many of the refugees are due to be released from quarantine in the coming days, sparking ministers to launch a rapid search for temporary accommodation
Around 15,000 Afghans have been evacuated from the country in the last fortnight following the Taliban ‘s takeover, say Government officials, of which around 8,300 are eligible under the Government’s Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP)
Victoria Atkins, the minister in charge of leading efforts to resettle Afghans refugees in the UK, said was ‘confident’ that more authorities would join the scheme in the comings weeks.
Government insists Afghan arrivals are subject to ‘thorough’ security checks
By Rory Tingle, Home Affairs Correspondent for MailOnline
All Afghan refugees will undergo intensive security screening, including by MI6, the government has insisted.
Immigration experts told MailOnline the vetting process would be similar to that undergone by all asylum seekers, including biometric checks to confirm the identity of the applicant.
Home Office statistics published last month showed that around half of asylum claims by Afghans over the 12 months to the end June 2021 were rejected, with some of the refusals being issued as the Taliban was taking control of Afghanistan.
Professor Thom Brooks, an immigration expert and Dean of Durham Law School, said: ‘I would suspect that those flown back from Kabul airport may be known to UK authorities already which should expedite their applications.
‘These are not individuals arriving at the border or making themselves known in the UK. This may make the security vetting somewhat easier, but I would expect the same vetting as normal.’
Dr Peter Walsh, a researcher at The Migration Observatory, Oxford University, said officials would carry out a combination of biographical research, biometric tests – such as fingerprinting – in addition to conducting interviews.
He expected checks for Afghan refugees would be conducted both at Kabul airport and after evacuees had arrived in the UK.
Explaining what Home Office officials look for when scrutinising asylum applications, he told MailOnline: ‘Firstly, military service, and whether this could correspond with the commission of certain crimes.
‘Secondly, whether they have been arrested or detained or have a criminal record.
‘Thirdly, has the person has been involved in the conflict they are fleeing from? If they are a combatant that may work against them, particularly if they’ve been on the wrong side.
‘Another one is whether they have any links to extremism or terrorism. The government will have a list of political groups and parties that are associated with terrorism or extremism.’
Dr Walsh said the applicant’s occupation would be checked.
‘There are certain occupations that could be prejudicial to their transfer – it’s not exactly clear what these might be, but you can imagine that certain military occupations or things like weapons manufacturing might be red flags.
‘The final thing they will be looking at is travel history. As part of a screening interview they’ll want to know where the individual has been and there may be certain areas that are identified with risk factors. Such as conflict areas.
‘It is likely caseworkers would be issued guidance specific to the Afghan context.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘There are people in Afghanistan who represent a serious threat to national security and public safety.
‘That is why thorough checks are taking place by government, our world-class intelligence agencies and others.
‘If someone is assessed as presenting as a risk to our country, we will take action.’
During a round of interviews this morning, Ms Atkins also admitted only around a third of councils had currently offered their support to the ARAP scheme, echoing an early claim by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
But she spoke of her confidence that more councils would soon sign up.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she said: ‘We are a little bit further forward that those figures suggest, because we have had offers, firm offers, from at least a third of local councils and we are in talks with many many more.
‘So I am confident that that number will change over the coming days.’
During her appearance on the programme it was suggested that if all councils signed up to the scheme the each council would take around 25 Afghan refugees.
Ms Atkins, who holds the role of Minister for Safeguarding, replied: ‘Well this is a very strong argument in favour of all councils taking part.
‘We want to bring people with us on this and we’ve set up already a portal to help members of the public if they are able to make offers of accommodation.
‘We are going to be expanding that over the coming days so people can make donations. We want local councils to work with us.
She added: ‘We’ve found local councils are overwhelmingly interested and supportive.’
But one authority already pulling its support of the Government’s rehoming efforts is that of Stoke on Trent city council.
The council’s Conservative leader, Abi Brown, said the area had offered support despite ‘one in 250 people’ in the city being an asylum seeker.
Today she questioned why more local authorities are not helping with Afghan evacuees.
She told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘How could you not watch those scenes on the television over the last few weeks and put forward over this?
‘But the question I would like to ask the other local authority leaders, 66 per cent who haven’t nominated is – why can’t they?
‘If I can, with the challenges that we have, one in 250 people in Stone on Trent are an asylum seeker, and as a result of the pressure around that we have withdrawn from the asylum dispersal system, what’s their excuse?’
Meanwhile, it was reported that Pontins has offered to put up hundreds of Afghan refugees in temporary accommodation.
Ministers are said to be ‘looking into’ the offer, with two specific sites thought to be under consideration.
The Home Office today refused MailOnline’s request for a list of local authorities who have already signed up to the ARAP scheme. It also refused to give a list of which councils had declined to take part in the scheme and which authorities it was currently in talks with to join the scheme.
It comes after the Telegraph reported last week that around 30 councils have refused to take any Afghan refugees who have arrived in the UK after fleeing the Taliban. The authorities were not named in the article.
Meanwhile, the Home Office today confirmed that Afghans who worked with the British government and military will be able to move to the UK permanently under the ARAP scheme.
The department announced the decision on Wednesday as it revealed more details of how its plan, dubbed Operation Warm Welcome, to help Afghans rebuild their lives in the UK would work.
Former Afghan staff and their family members eligible for the ARAP scheme, which prioritises relocation to the UK for current or former locally employed staff who have been assessed to be under serious threat to life, will be given immediate indefinite leave to remain as opposed to only five years’ temporary residency as previously permitted.
It comes as the Home Office today confirmed that Afghans who worked with the British government and military will be able to move to the UK permanently under the ARAP scheme
Stoke on Trent City Council’s Conservative leader, Abi Brown, said the area had offered support despite ‘one in 250 people’ in the city being an asylum seeker. She criticised other authorities for not doing the same
Dominic Raab prepares for showdown with MPs over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis
The embattled Foreign Secretary is due to appear in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee from 2pm in what is expected to be a bruising encounter.
The Tory chairman of the committee, Tom Tugendhat, set the tone for Mr Raab’s appearance as he said the UK and US exit from Kabul had left people ‘defenceless in front of armed gangs’.
Meanwhile, other members of the committee have described the UK’s withdrawal from the country as the ‘worst crisis since Suez’ while Labour said it is the ‘biggest foreign policy failing in a generation’.
Mr Raab yesterday defended his handling of the situation and took aim at his critics as he appeared to blame the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office for some of the Government’s failings.
The Foreign Secretary has been widely tipped to be sacked at Boris Johnson’s next Cabinet reshuffle and today’s appearance in front of MPs could be crucial to his hopes of clinging on.
Westminster is braced for the clash between Mr Raab and Mr Tugendhat, with the latter having been a vocal critic of the handling of the withdrawal and the overall decision to leave the country.
The former soldier said last week that the exit from Afghanistan and the decision to leave many Afghan allies behind means Britain could face the ‘biggest hostage crisis the UK has ever seen’.
Mr Tugendhat said the UK and the US had been ‘defeated’ and ‘this is what defeat looks like’ after the Taliban completed its takeover of the country.
The Tory heavyweight warned yesterday that the manner of the departure from Afghanistan risked another war.
Responding to a US politician who tweeted ‘ending wars is good actually’, Mr Tugendhat said: ‘Ending wars is good. Leaving people defenceless in front of armed gangs is not how you end a war, it’s how you start a new one.
Mr Raab is expected to be quizzed about the Government’s preparations for the end of the deployment in Afghanistan, its handling of the evacuation operation and its plans for dealing with the Taliban in the future.
Those who have already been relocated in the UK with temporary residency can now upgrade their immigration status for free, allowing them access to permanent jobs with unrestricted rights to work.
Separate to ARAP is the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme for citizens deemed most at risk under the Taliban.
Ms Atkins said it is yet to be decided whether those individuals will get indefinite leave to remain.
‘These decisions will be made in due course,’ she told Sky News.
‘But I very much hope from the announcements today British people, but also importantly Afghans who have moved to our country very recently, really get the sense of how warm and welcoming the Government wants to be towards them.’
So far councils across the country have already publicly announced their desire to support the Government’s efforts to rehome Afghan refugees.
Around 70 refugees are already thought to have arrived in Derby, where the city council says it ‘stands ready to help’ those fleeing the Taliban.
In Nottingham, the council has also pledged support, though it has not revealed how many Afghan refugees it has already taken in, similar to nearby Leicester.
Southampton City Council last month also pledged to house rehouse a ‘small number of families’ and said it would offer ‘further support if needed’.
And at least 27 of the 32 borough councils in London have so far said they would help support and resettle Afghan families, according to London Councils.
But other authorities, such as as Dorset Council, have publicly stated they will not be using social housing to support Afghan refugees.
The authority has pledged its support to rehoming Afghan refugees, but said it will instead look to the private sector for support.
It will be seeking privately owned, self-contained accommodation to house families.
Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Housing and Community Safety said: ‘I am acutely aware of the demand for emergency accommodation for local families on our housing register and in temporary accommodation.
‘I want to reassure people in this situation that they will not be disadvantaged by the work we are doing to help the government resettle Afghan families.’
Mohammed Munib Majeedi (pictured) fell from the window of the Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel on August 18 after the boy’s family had ‘recently’ been moved from Afghanistan
‘Lies from a death cult’: Tom Tugendhat blasts Taliban after they claimed foreigners will be allowed out of Afghanistan
Tom Tugendhat has shot down Taliban claims that Britons stranded in Afghanistan will be allowed to leave safely – accusing the Islamists of running ‘a slick PR operation masking a vicious death cult.’
The Tory MP, a former Army Lieutenant Colonel who served in Helmand, hit out after a Taliban spokesman appeared on Good Morning Britain to claim that anyone ‘with proper documents’ will be allowed out once civilian flights restart.
Suhail Shaheen also insisted that women’s rights are being respected and that al Qaeda will not be tolerated – despite multiple reports of persecutions and images showing terrorist leaders arriving in the country.
‘I’m afraid your viewers have just been lied to,’ Mr Tugendhat said. ‘It’s absolutely clear that groups who make up the Taliban… have been rounding up people in Lashkar Gah and Kandahar and hunting them down in Kabul and killing them.
‘Universities are being closed… women are being denied access to education, girls are being denied access to education, and civil servants, female civil servants, are being sent home,’ he added.
Mr Tugendhat spoke out after it emerged that MI6 chiefs have met with the Taliban to discuss the fate of hundreds of Britons left behind when RAF mercy flights out of the country stopped.
Special envoy Sir Simon Gass, the chair or the Joint Intelligence Committee, met senior representatives of the group in Qatar to try to secure safe passage for those left behind.
That number is thought to include hundreds of British citizens and up to 9,000 Afghans who helped western forces in exchange for a promise of sanctuary.
Officers from MI6 also met the militia group, while the head of MI6 Richard Moore flew to Islamabad for talks with the head of the Pakistani army.
Speaking from his base in Doha, Shaheen sought to reassure GMB viewers that that Taliban are working to protect those left behind.
‘Every Afghan citizen who is intending to go abroad to another country and has proper documents like passports, visas – they can go. And they can also come to Afghanistan,’ he said.
‘But we urge them to stay in Afghanistan. As we have gained our independence, it is time for all Afghans to build their country. their capacities, their talents are direly needed.’
But Shaheen’s words jar badly with reports from the ground that fighters are going door to door executing anyone who is thought to have helped the west.
He also dismissed reports that women are being banned from the workplace, insisting that they are valued members of society who are being encouraged to work.
On top of the ARAP, the Government is still developing the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, to take in up to 20,000 refugees who were forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban.
As many as 5,000 could arrive in the first year and will also be offered permanent residency. Some £200 million has been committed to the scheme so far.
Meanwhile, fears have been raised about the safety and conditions of the temporary accommodation some of the Afghan refugees are being kept in.
It comes after a coroner offered her ‘heartfelt condolences’ to the family of a five-year-old Afghan refugee who fell to his death from a hotel window onto the top of a multi-storey car park.
Mohammed Monib Majeedi, who enjoyed playing cops and robbers, was looking from his ninth floor room when he plunged to his death at 2.30pm last Wednesday at the Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel.
The boy had been staying with his mother Shekiba, father Omar Majeedi, two brothers and two sisters since arriving in the UK after fleeing the Taliban last month.
Assistant coroner Tanyka Rawden said in a five-minute inquest opening on August 24 that it had been a ‘truly awful time’ for the boy’s family.
She adjourned the inquest until a further hearing on November 16 and no further details of the incident were given.
Last month that councils are set to get grants from the government to rent or buy large homes for thousands of Afghan refugees.
The average size of the families coming to the UK is thought to be seven, but at least one family is believed to be made up of 12 people.
So far local authorities have offered to host up to 2,500 people, but the numbers seeking refuge under the scheme for Afghans who helped British forces could reach five times that level.
Thousands more are expected to come to the UK under a separate longer-term resettlement scheme for those vulnerable to persecution by the Taliban.
Although the details are unclear, the suggestion of grants to buy homes could spark resentment in local communities, with many Britons struggling to afford such properties.
It comes amid fears more than 1,000 Afghans who assisted British troops face being left behind when mercy flights cease in the coming days.
A Government source told the Times: ‘The greatest challenge is that councils simply don’t have enough vacant properties.
‘We are looking at other options which could see councils renting properties of the right size or even purchasing them and adding them to their long-term housing stock.’
A map showing where Afghan refugees have arrived in the UK after evacuation from Afghanistan – as of August 24
Council leader calls for national debate on why local authorities have not stepped up to help Afghan refugees
The leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council has called for a national debate to address why around two-thirds of local authorities have not stepped up to help Afghan refugees.
Conservative Abi Brown, whose authority recently withdrew from the national asylum dispersal scheme, said Stoke-on-Trent and the wider Staffordshire area are planning to welcome and resettle around 25 families from Afghanistan.
But she questioned why around 66 per cent of other councils have not put themselves forward to help those fleeing the Taliban, despite many having lower numbers of asylum seekers than Stoke-on-Trent.
Ms Brown told the PA news agency: ‘The Government have outlined the Operation Warm Welcome yesterday and Stoke-on-Trent, along with our colleagues in Staffordshire, are one of the one in three councils who have said that we will accept Afghan refugee families under that scheme.
‘Our position as a local authority is that we have been part of asylum dispersal for 20 years and we recently withdrew from the scheme.
‘An area like Stoke-on-Trent that has been taking asylum seekers for a very long time – one in 250 of our residents are asylum seekers today – can find, albeit a very small amount, space to take a few more.
‘And yet our colleagues elsewhere in the country, who aren’t part of asylum dispersal… they still say ‘No, sorry, we can’t take anybody’.’
Urging other authorities to come forward, Ms Brown added: ‘How could you possibly have watched the coverage over the last few weeks and not feel in some way that you actually want to help?
‘It’s time to step up. Places like Stoke-on-Trent have been taking their fair share for a very long time now – and if we can do it… then really there is very little excuse for anybody else.
‘There needs to be a national debate around it. I do appreciate housing is fairly cheap in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s not as cheap elsewhere – I know that that’s a challenge, but actually the whole asylum system is not fair.’
The city council is expected to announce details in the next few days of how residents can help the ‘relatively small number’ of affected families due to be housed in the local area, after approaches from communities and organisations.
Asked if the financial package announced so far by central government to help local authorities will be sufficient, Ms Brown said: ‘Obviously it’s very helpful, certainly, to get the ball rolling.
‘We certainly very much welcome the fact that the Government is pledging funds around this, but I do think it’s important, again as part of that national debate, that there is a raised awareness around the cost of the impact of asylum dispersal.
‘We will provide a very warm welcome to all those families who come to Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, and we will support them to get into schools, to access healthcare, to get jobs and be part of our wider community.
‘But, actually, there is an ongoing cost around asylum, and cities like Stoke-on-Trent have borne the brunt of that over the last 20 years.
‘I think, over recent years, we have had a number of different schemes that have come forward; whether it’s Syrian refugees – Stoke-on-Trent took 20 Syrian families in 2016 – as well as unaccompanied asylum-seeker children.
‘I think it is time for a national debate.
‘This is an issue that we’ve pledged our support for as a country – and that does actually mean everybody. It doesn’t just mean cities like mine.’
A welcome to make us proud: Relief as 10,000 Afghan heroes who risked their lives helping UK troops are given permission to live here indefinitely
By Jason Groves and David Williams for the Daily Mail
Thousands of Afghans who risked their lives to help British forces will be allowed to live and work indefinitely in the UK.
The Home Office last night said the coveted status would be granted immediately – and automatically – to around 10,000 refugees.
It will allow them to work and enrol their children in school as they try to build a new life here.
The decision fast-tracks a process that can take years and with only a limited right to remain.
Boris Johnson said the policy reflected the ‘immense debt’ owed to translators and others who had helped the UK military during the 20-year engagement.
Thousands of Afghans who risked their lives to help British forces will be allowed to live and work indefinitely in the UK. Pictured: Afghan refugees arrive at Heathrow Airport, London
The Home Office said the coveted status would be granted immediately – and automatically – to around 10,000 refugees. Pictured: Afghan refugees arriving into Heathrow last week
A Whitehall source said that the package, codenamed Operation Warm Welcome, was ‘the least we could do’ following the chaotic and bloody withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Ministers are still however under pressure to do more to help hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Afghans now in hiding from Taliban reprisals for helping British troops.
Its leaders have claimed they will not seek revenge but militants yesterday raided the homes of former translators in Kabul.
Former interpreters told the Mail they were living in fear for their lives after failing to secure a place among the 10,000 flown to Britain.
A 35-year-old who has qualified for relocation to the UK said: ‘No one believes the Taliban’s words of forgiveness. We helped the British kill and capture their men.
‘We provided the intelligence to fight against them. We questioned their captured and injured – so it is simple that they will want revenge.’
Refugees from Afghanistan arrive on a evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport on August 26
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday denied reports that more than 7,000 Afghans with links to UK forces had been left behind, but was unable to provide another figure.
He said the number of British citizens left in Afghanistan was in ‘the low hundreds’, following the evacuation of more than 15,000 people in the second half of August.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said around 300 Afghans granted refuge in the UK had been left behind, along with 700 relatives.
Normally, asylum seekers are banned from working while their claims are assessed. They are entitled to minimal financial support if they would ‘otherwise be destitute’.
Permission to work may be granted only if their claim has not been processed within a year through no fault of their own.
If they are eventually granted leave to remain it is typically capped at five years.
Dominic Raab (pictured with Borish Johnson) denied reports that more than 7,000 Afghans with links to UK forces had been left behind but was unable to provide another figure
By contrast, those who have served British forces will immediately be granted indefinite leave to remain, which brings with it the right to work and the option to apply for British citizenship.
Those eligible under the Afghanistan Relocations and Assistance Policy will also be eligible for immediate access to NHS services.
Councils have been offered a modest £5million to help with housing. Officials said they were working with more than 100 town halls and had so far found accommodation for more than 2,000 people.
Councils will be given an extra £12million to provide additional school places for Afghan children and further funding will be provided to create 300 university places.
Arrivals from Afghanistan will also be offered the Covid vaccine and given access to a portal where members of the public will be able to share offers of work and housing and make donations.
A Whitehall source last night told the Mail the package was ‘likely’ to be extended to 20,000 Afghans expected to come under a wider resettlement scheme – but this has not been decided.
The lucky ones: They made it… but scores of others didn’t. As Afghan interpreter families start a new life in the UK, meet the relieved parents who escaped a nightmare
They call themselves the ‘lucky ones’: four among hundreds of former British military interpreters whisked to safety in Britain as the Taliban returned. Scores more are left behind.
They risked their lives for Britain, and were initially denied sanctuary in the UK.
But the Daily Mail’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign took up cudgels. One by one, they were eventually told they could come to Britain.
Yesterday all four families were safe in quarantine hotels in London and Manchester. They could only watch the horrors back home unfold.
All are thankful to the Government, singling out Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for ‘making a difference’, and praising the support of ‘our brothers… the magnificent British soldiers who helped us at the airport’.
They are especially grateful to the Mail’s campaign for ‘being our voice, never forgetting us, fighting for translators and sharing our suffering’.
From their hotels, they told their stories. Bahawar Mayar, 60, and his family – wife Sheerina and children Husna, Samina, Adeena, Ghulam and Mustafa – made it past Taliban checkpoints to get on an RAF plane, but he is haunted by the thoughts of colleagues left behind.
‘I know I am lucky, I have escaped with my family,’ he said. ‘There are many still in Afghanistan who have not been so lucky. I pray for them.’
Escape from airport just hours before blast horror
Only 24 hours before a suicide bomb ripped through the crowds clamouring to make it into Kabul’s besieged airport last week, Waheed Sabawoon, his wife and two children were standing near the same spot.
Waheed, 29, said: ‘It is terrifying to think that could have been us trapped there. We had been in the same crush of people, the open sewage channel, and we had the fear of not knowing if we would ever make it through.
‘Instead, we watched the scenes on television from our hotel rooms, hardly able to believe it. We were very lucky to have escaped.
Only 24 hours before a suicide bomb ripped through the crowds clamouring to make it into Kabul’s besieged airport last week, Waheed Sabawoon, his wife and two children were standing near the same spot
‘It is such an emotional experience to feel safe for the first time in year, not to worry if the knock on the door is going to be the Taliban. This is the gift that Britain has given us and we will always be thankful because we did not believe it would happen.’
For years Waheed, who worked for the sensitive Electronic Warfare Unit and Brigade Reconnaissance Forces in Helmand province between 2010 and 2013, thought he would be among those left behind after a Kindle e-reader was found among his belongings in camp.
For years Waheed thought he would be among those left behind after a Kindle e-reader was found among his belongings in camp
He said it was given to him by an officer, but it was a rule that no electronic devices could be taken on to base areas without permission.
Waheed was dismissed, preventing him from being relocated to Britain. This ban was only overturned when the UK’s policy became more generous, allowing those terminated for minor offences to qualify.
In his hotel room with wife Mashita, 29, son Naveed, four, and two-year-old daughter Muska, he said: ‘It was a nightmare fearing we would not escape but I never gave up hope knowing that you [the Mail] were on my side and pressing my case. We are looking forward to making Britain proud, and giving back to it.’
We’re so happy… this is our home now
Two days ago, Farid Rahmani asked his four-year-old daughter Tahura whether she missed Afghanistan.
The answer was emphatic: ‘No. I want to stay here. We are happy now. This is home.’
The 37-year-old former senior translator at the British Embassy in Kabul said the words made him and his wife Fatima, 32, feel tearful.
Farid, shot three months ago in a Taliban ambush as he drove home, said: ‘The whole family are so happy to be here and to have left behind the Taliban bullets. Everything about the old Afghanistan which we liked is what the Taliban hates and will kill. They wanted me dead. We know we are lucky. My brother who worked ten years with the British is stuck with three colleagues.’
Two days ago, Farid Rahmani asked his four-year-old daughter Tahura whether she missed Afghanistan. The answer was emphatic: ‘No. I want to stay here. We are happy now. This is home’
Farid served Britain for 17 years. But he was one of 21 translators at the embassy told they did not qualify to come to the UK. Incredibly, he was rejected days after being shot.
After the Mail campaign highlighted his case, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is said to have personally intervened. All 21 were granted sanctuary. Farid and his wife have six children – Ahmad, 13, Mohammad, 12, Beseshta, ten, Sumaya, six, Tahura and Hasenat, two.
It’s a dream to fall asleep without fear
Latif Hottak, 37, and his family – wife Ruqia, 35, and children Zaki, 13, Sana, 11, Sama, ten, and seven-year-old Sudies – had been denied the right to come to the UK because the Ministry of Defence said he was dismissed from his job as an interpreter in January 2011
Latif Hottak looked out over the Thames from the window of his quarantine hotel and summed up the difference in his family’s life in the last few days as ‘unbelievable… from hell to heaven’.
Latif is an ex-interpreter, who spent six years with UK forces, three on the frontline
The ex-interpreter, who spent six years with UK forces, three on the frontline, said: ‘This is a dream. We are finally relearning the meaning of being able to relax, to fall asleep without fear and nerves, to wake with excitement and purpose.’
The 37-year-old and his family – wife Ruqia, 35, and children Zaki, 13, Sana, 11, Sama, ten, and seven-year-old Sudies – had been denied the right to come to the UK because the Ministry of Defence said he was dismissed from his job as an interpreter in January 2011.
But salary records, handed to the MoD by the Mail, suggested Latif was still working more than a year later.
Within days, he received the ‘wonderful news’ that the decision had been reversed.
Latif added: ‘This is possible because of the Daily Mail and my brother Rafi [a former interpreter blown up on the frontlines who has relocated to the UK]. Everyone else gave up on us.’
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