Here for Good Afghan project – addressing emerging needs
Here for Good is a strategic legal charity founded with the aim of plugging gaps where there is no or limited legal aid available. This was the case with the EU Settlement Scheme and the Ukraine Schemes for which we run specialised advice services. This is also the case for the newest advice service we’ve set up supporting Afghans who fall outside of the rules of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme.
Our unique structure is built on close partnerships in the legal sector – our team of lawyers are based within law firms and other legal charities where they benefit from the partner organisation’s knowledge, expertise and supervisory and regulatory structures. The model enables us to quickly respond to emerging crises and assemble or redeploy legal teams at these firms.
A few months ago, a Here for Good solicitor, Mala Savjani who is based at Wilsons Solicitors, started noticing an increased need for legal representation of Afghans who had assisted the UK’s mission in Afghanistan but hadn’t worked directly for the MOD or the FCDO. This meant that they fell out of the ARAP scheme. However, many Afghans are in danger of the Taliban as a direct result of their support to the UK, still, they are being denied a route to sanctuary for them and their families. The UK is therefore not providing the protection that it should to many Afghans and their families at risk.
We decided to explore the issue and it is very clear to us that the ARAP scheme is not working. We decided to conduct strategic legal work to try and address the gaps and ensure more Afghans are granted a route to sanctuary in the UK. At the moment, there is no legal aid available for many of these Afghans who want to reach safety in the UK. This means many have been unable to access legal support to proceed with their applications and challenge Home Office refusals. It also means that cases which could lead to a change in the Government’s unjust and unfair policy are not able to be pursued. Here for Good therefore decided to plug this gap by setting up our ARAP Project.
With a small grant, Here for Good set up a pilot project with Wilson Solicitors to address the gaps in the ARAP Scheme. We now pursue a handful of strategic legal cases with the ambition to create wider positive change for many more Afghans in similar situations. We are working on cases of a variety of different Afghan people, all of whom are at heightened risk of being targeted by the Taliban due to their assistance of the UK Mission. For example, former senior intelligence officials that assisted the British military or drivers of UK-contracted international development organisations. A number of those we are helping have young children and are currently stranded, having been denied access to safety in the UK.
With the client’s permission, one of the project’s lawyers at Wilson, Mathilde Vivares, shares his story to bring this issue to life:
Abdul is an Afghan national who is currently in Kabul, Afghanistan with his wife and children. For many years he worked for a British consultancy firm in Afghanistan that delivered aid programs on behalf of the British government. For over ten years, Abdul risked his life on a daily basis working on the many different projects supporting British security interests in Afghanistan. Abdul worked as a driver and interpreter for British government officials and for British citizens working to deliver the British government’s mission in the country. His visible role put him at constant risk: he was seen and associated with British individuals, seen at the British embassy and drove official cars.
After the fall of Kabul, Abdul made an application under the UK Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme but his application was rejected. Nevertheless, it was clear from the refusal letter that the Home Office had not considered the evidence submitted in support of his application. For example, Abdul had provided the Home Office with a letter from the manager of the British consultancy firm, confirming that he was at high risk and on a ‘priority list’ – yet the Home Office still refused his application.
To us, it’s clear that Abdul has made a significant contribution to the UK government’s mission of defence and security in Afghanistan, yet he has been left behind and let down by the British government.
Abdul is now in hiding in Afghanistan with his wife and children and the risk to his life has not reduced. His family lives in fear of being discovered and captured by the Taliban and Abdul fears that if the Taliban finds him, they will torture and kill him because of the work he did for the UK.
Abdul describes the current situation as ‘a circle which is getting tighter and tighter by the day, with the constant fear of being discovered’. His children are no longer able to go to school or leave the house for fear of their father being found. He has heard rumours that the Taliban intelligence services are going around asking for people about him and he fears that at any moment someone will knock on his door and ask for him.
Wilson Solicitors are in the process of making an application for Leave Outside The Rules on compassionate grounds for Abdul and his family. The delay in processing his ARAP application may be administrative in nature, but it has tangible consequences for Abdul and his family, whose lives remain at high risk due to his role in supporting the British government’s international mission and objectives in Afghanistan.
Here for Good will continue to support Afghans who fall outside of the rules of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme and to tackle the systemic issues related to the Scheme.