17 Oct Afghans awaiting transfer to the UK – Judicial Review
The High Court is today (17 October 2023) hearing a judicial review brought by 2 Afghan families who have received offers of protection from the UK government under its Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (“ARAP”) scheme, but who have been housed in hotels in Pakistan awaiting transfer to the UK for nearly a year. There are at least 2,300 Afghans in this situation and over 1,000 children. There has been no formal education and recreational provision from the UK government throughout this time, and they are de-facto confined to their hotels due to the risk of arrest and deportation by the Pakistani authorities, who have announced a crackdown on irregular Afghan migrants in the country (the Pakistan visas of the ARAP beneficiaries in Pakistan expired while they awaited relocation), commencing 1 November 2023. Mass deportations are in prospect after this date.
The claim was commenced in May 2023 but has to date been delayed by the government, which refused to agree to ‘expedite’ the case despite serious questions about the security risks and the impacts on children. They no longer oppose expedition, and at a hearing on 12 October 2023, the High Court granted permission for judicial review to DPG’s clients, meaning that their case will now progress to a full hearing. Today’s hearing is to deal with our clients’ application for an injunction requiring their transfer to the UK without further delay in light of the situation in Pakistan. The case has already revealed that it was a decision of the Prime Minister personally that placed a halt on transferring the affected Afghans to the UK – in November 2022 (but not announced publicly for several months) – because they would be placed in hotels in the UK. The reasons for this decision are unclear, particularly because the affected Afghans have been housed in hotels in Pakistan as a result of this decision, but in a situation subject to serious risks to their lives and without any access to education or other civil entitlements. The cases have received press coverage in the BBC and Independent.