Refugee Council and Help for Heroes write to Immigration Minister

August 14, 2023

Enver Solomon and James Needham, the CEOs of the Refugee Council and veterans’ charity Help for Heroes, have jointly written to the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, calling on the Home Office to put in place a system to reunite Afghan families separated during the UK government’s evacuation effort, Operation Pitting. 

Afghans who were evacuated without their immediate family – including children evacuated without parents – were assured that their family members would be eligible for resettlement under the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). However, 2 years later, the government has failed to provide any mechanism for such resettlement to occur. 

There is currently no way for Afghans in the UK to inform the Home Office that they have been separated from their immediate family and that they require reunion. There is also no way for their family members in Afghanistan or neighbouring countries to apply to the resettlement scheme. Without these systems in place, the Home Office does not know how many people are separated or have any mechanism by which to reunite them.

The impact of this separation is severe. Wasim was just 9 when he was separated from his parents in the bomb explosion at Kabul airport. While he made it on to a plane with his uncle, his parents did not. He has not seen his parents for 2 years. In a letter to his MP, shared with the Refugee Council, Wasim wrote:

I don’t feel like playing now, I just want to be quiet, on my own. Sometimes I wait a long time at night, I can’t get to sleep, and I’m so tired at school now. I used to really want to learn but now I can’t because I can’t forget my family. 

He goes on to say:

When I see the other boys and girls with their parents it reminds me that I am alone and I wish

that my mum and dad could join me so that we can have a happy life together.

The Refugee Council and Help for Heroes urge the Immigration Minister to set up a system to allow separated Afghans in the UK to register their close family members and their locations if known. The UK can then begin to process their cases. The organisations jointly urge the Minister to increase staffing and resource for the Afghan resettlement schemes.

For more on this story, see coverage of the joint letter in the Daily Mail, and an interview with Wasim on ITV.