Afghan refugees deprived of papers fear for future in UK: Lawyers

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Afghan refugees evacuated from Kabul fear they will soon be treated like illegal immigrants because they have not received updated papers, their lawyers have said, adding that it is unclear how many are missing documents required to work legally and rent homes.

Temporary visas are due to expire within days, leav-ing the refugees potentially vulnerable, but the Home Office has said the lawyers’ warnings are “needless scaremongering,” the BBC reported on Friday.

British and other NATO armed forces evacuated around 15,000 Afghans from Kabul last year as the country fell to the Taliban.

Those evacuees were granted temporary visas last-ing six months, with a view to being given the right to settle later — a commitment that still stands.

But the Law Society, which represents solicitors, said firms across Britain are now receiving calls for help from people whose temporary legal status ex-pires in the coming week — meaning they have no means of proving they are lawfully in the country.

The Afghans, who either worked alongside NATO forces or are the families of people who did, say they have not received any updated papers and have not been able to get answers from officials.

It is not known how many are affected, and minis-ters have declined to reveal in Parliament how many Afghans have so far been issued permanent status.

Without such papers they will be unable to work, rent homes, open a bank account or use the National Health Service.

“The Home Office must urgently provide every one of these people with evidence of their continued right to work, study and rent accommodation,” said I. Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society.

“The UK’s ‘warm welcome’ is meaningless if the government does not provide concrete assurances which could allay the fears of thousands of people and give them the legal certainty they need.”

The Home Office said Afghans had received verbal reassurances that their paperwork would eventually come.

“The Afghan nationals resettled here already have the right to work, access to education, healthcare and can apply for public funds,” said a Home Office spokesperson.

“While we are in the process of granting all indefi-nite leave to remain, all have valid leave while this is ongoing, so to suggest they are at risk of losing their rights is completely wrong.”—AN

 

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