27 Oct Afghans awaiting transfer to UK – Judicial Review
The High Court is today (27 October 2023) sitting for an unusual fourth hearing in just over two weeks in 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 government have disclosed during the hearings that it was the Prime Minister who effectively halted relocations to the UK, in November 2022, exposing DPG’s clients and thousands others to serious risks of arrest and deportation in Pakistan as their Pakistan visas expired. At the third hearing the government conceded that the policy must change and is now arranging for relocations to the UK. Today’s hearing will examine those plans and the speed with which they are carried out given the growing risks in Pakistan and other third countries where ARAP eligible people have been housed for many months.
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.