UK set to take nearly 3,000 Afghan immigrants from Pakistan by the end of December 2023

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Nearly 3,000 Afghans in Pakistan will be brought to the UK by the end of the year for resettlement under the Afghan relocation and assistance policy (Arap), a minister has said.

Pakistan has announced a crackdown on migrants thought to be in the country illegally, which could affect an estimated 1.7 million Afghans, and said it would begin deportations on November 1.

Cabinet Office minister Johnny Mercer told the Commons he has received “verbal assurances” from Pakistani authorities that those eligible to come to the UK will not be deported to Afghanistan, and he is working to ensure “that line is held”.

Afghan refugees wait outside a police station for their data verification by the National Database and Registration Authority (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP) (Photo by ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images)

He said the Government is accelerating the process of bringing those eligible to the UK and appeared to suggest that while he is aiming to avoid the use of hotels, they may be used “in extremis”.

Speaking during an urgent question on the evacuation of Afghans from Pakistan, Mr Mercer said: “Previously the policy was that only those who had secured accommodation in the United Kingdom would travel to the United Kingdom. We are changing that policy as a result of changing conditions on the ground.

He added: “Our new plans will see approximately 2,800 Arap-entitled personnel moved from Pakistan to the United Kingdom by the end of December 2023.

“I don’t want to see anybody detained or deported from Afghanistan who’s entitled to be in the United Kingdom and I’m going to work to achieve that outcome.”

Afghan refugees arrive on the back of a vehicle at a holding centre before crossing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (Photo by BANARAS KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said: “The government of Pakistan has strong-armed our weak Prime Minister into delivering something that it was our duty as a country to deliver in the first place.

“A truly shameful and humiliating state of affairs.”

Pakistan has long hosted about 1.7 million Afghans, most of whom fled during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation, while half a million people were forced to flee when the Taliban seized power in the final weeks of U.S. and NATO pullout.

The Pakistani government this month launched a crackdown on illegal migration, saying any unregistered foreign national and migrant lacking proper documentation would face arrest and deportation.