UK Government Publishes Guidance for Evacuees from Afghanistan
The situation for Afghan citizens and foreigners in Afghanistan since the departure of US military forces and the resurgence of the Taliban has been and remains incredibly fraught and dangerous. At a time when people are leaving Afghanistan in fear of their lives and those of their family members, it is essential that clear guidance is made available to those who make it to the UK. The UK’s Home Office has recently published new guidance to help orientate new evacuees from Afghanistan, including the immigration routes available, their rights, and the help and support available in the UK.
New UK government factsheet published for evacuees from Afghanistan
Knowing that people who have managed to escape Afghanistan will undoubtedly be unsure of their legal position, the options available, and where to turn for assistance and support, the UK government has published a fact sheet entitled ‘Next steps in the UK: immigration information for people evacuated from Afghanistan’. The document states, “This factsheet is for people evacuated from Afghanistan. It provides information on your rights and the next steps regarding your immigration status in the UK. On behalf of the whole country, we would like to warmly welcome you to the United Kingdom. We appreciate this will be an extremely difficult time for both you and your loved ones, but you are welcome here in the UK, and we encourage you to make the most of everything the UK has to offer”.
What does the government say about the rights of evacuees from Afghanistan in the UK?
The guidance first points out that those who have arrived in the UK without a passport will still be able to secure protected immigration status. They will be given a letter on arrival at the UK border which can be used to prove their legal immigration status in the UK. It is important that you keep this document safe as it can be used when seeking healthcare employment, financial support, and accommodation. Evacuees from Afghanistan will have the right to:
- Work in the UK
- Study in the UK
- Access free healthcare from the National Health Service
- Access public funds
Those who arrive in the UK from Afghanistan are being processed by welfare teams and being given accommodation in hotels initially. Support and information are available from those welfare teams.
What are my immigration options in the UK?
Understandably, most people arriving in the UK from Afghanistan will want to understand their options when it comes to immigration and staying in the UK long term. The Home Office advises that they will work with each registered evacuee on an individual basis to help them secure their legal immigration status in the UK. There are several immigration programmes/routes available, with the most appropriate depending on your circumstances, as follows:
- The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) – this scheme is for “current or former locally employed staff in Afghanistan who are assessed to be under serious threat to life and are offered relocation to the UK regardless of their employment, status, rank or role, or length of time served”. This scheme was originally announced at the end of 2020 and is for people employed in Afghanistan by the UK government. For more details on whether you are eligible for this route and, if so, under which category of urgency, see the Home Office ARAP web page.
- The Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme – those who are not able to be resettled in the UK under ARAP will be assessed by the Home Office for this scheme. The guidance advises, “Those who have contributed to civil society or face a particular risk from the Taliban, for example, because of their role in standing up for democracy and human rights, or because of their gender, sexuality or religion will be eligible for the scheme. If you are eligible, you will be given indefinite leave to remain in the UK”.
- · Family members – another immigration route is available to those who are a family member of a British citizen, refugee, or settled person (i.e. those with permanent residence) in the UK. Family members in the UK may include a spouse or partner, fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, child, parent (if you are a child), or relative who will provide long term care for you (i.e. parent, grandchild, brother, sister, son or daughter).
If you are unsure which route is best for you and your family members, please be reassured that there are plenty of options available. Even if you are not eligible under one route, there will likely be another you can choose. Your Home Office welfare contact will be able to advise you accordingly; however, if you are still unsure, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will do all they can to put you and your family on a path to permanent safety and security in the UK.
What help is available from the UK government?
You can contact your local authority/council if you have any immediate housing, money, food, or welfare needs. The government has also provided a phone number for those who have been evacuated from Afghanistan and are currently staying in a hotel provided by them; telephone 02475 389 980 – select option 1 – this line is open seven days a week between 6am and 6pm. Your welfare contact or a member of the UK’s government staff located at your hotel will be able to assist if you do not have access to a phone.
Everyone in the UK is acutely aware of what is happening in Afghanistan and just how desperate many are to leave to find safety and security for themselves and their family members. You can be absolutely assured that there is a wealth of help and support available regardless of your situation. Whether you need help with healthcare (for physical or mental health matters), money, employment, immigration, accommodation, clothing, or any other welfare concerns, help is available across the UK for you and your family.