My Message to Boris Johnson: Help Our Families
Ebrahim worked for the British forces as an interpreter before having to flee to a nearby country. Now, his family in hiding in Kabul, he asks: when will you help us?
“My family is still in Afghanistan,” Ebrahim, not his real name, told Byline Times. “They are in hiding. The neighbours say the Taliban has already searched our home. It is open like a garden.”
Ebrahim was just 19-years-old in 2011 when he became an interpreter for the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan. The army had been in the country for ten years, and he was “proud to work with the armed forces, because our main motive was to fight terrorism. The UK had sent their sons and daughters to help us, so why wouldn’t I stand with them?”
While on leave visiting his family, Ebrahim learned a relative had informed the Taliban that he was working for the UK. It became too dangerous to remain in the job he loved. He resigned, too scared even to tell his employers why, and took a position teaching English in Kabul.
However, the threat was far from over. Ebrahim was walking home from work when a group of three bearded men started to follow him. One shouted that he had seen Ebrahim helping the British in Helmand. Terrified for his and his family’s safety, he packed his things, said goodbye to his parents and fled the country.
Despite being told in early August that he was eligible for resettlement, whenever he contacts the Government to ask what is happening, Ebrahim is told to complete the same form he had previously submitted.
That was the last time Ebrahim saw his parents. For the past eight years, he has lived as a refugee in a nearby nation with his wife and young child. Back home in Kabul, and his family are in greater danger than ever before.
The man who informed on Ebrahim had been arrested and sent to prison. However, since taking over Kabul in August, the Taliban has released all prisoners that were loyal to the fundamentalist group – including Ebrahim’s informer.
“He believes my family reported him, when we didn’t,” Ebrahim explained. “He’s out, and the Taliban has already been to our home. My family had thankfully gone into hiding. We are very, very scared because of my job.”
Like thousands more families terrified that the Taliban’s return would lead to violence and persecution, Ebrahim’s parents and siblings went to the airport where they waited day after day, hoping they could be evacuated to safety.
“My family spent four days and nights in front of Kabul Airport asking for help,” he told Byline Times. “But they didn’t get help. Now they are left behind in Kabul.”
Trapped in Limbo
As a former interpreter, Ebrahim has been told he is eligible for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Programme (ARAP).
The programme is open to “any current or former locally employed staff who are assessed to be under serious threat to life are offered priority relocation to the UK regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served.” ARAP applications can be made outside of Afghanistan, in a “third country.”
After nearly a decade of living as a refugee, separated from his mother and father and brothers, enduring the COVID-19 pandemic and forced to sell his wife’s jewellery to pay the rent, this was welcome news.
However, he is still waiting to be resettled and his family are still stuck in Afghanistan.
Now Ebrahim feels stuck in limbo. Despite being told in early August that he was eligible for resettlement, whenever he contacts the Government to ask what is happening, he is told to complete the same form he had previously submitted. He has now filled out the same form multiple times.
“I’m very worried, as they said I was eligible and now they are asking for the same information to see if I am eligible,” Ebrahim explained. Some interpreters have been told they were eligible, only for the decision to be reversed.
Ebrahim said the Government should process the cases of interpreters like him who are living in third countries, now military flights from Kabul have stopped.
“I am not a criminal,” he told Byline Times. “But eight years I have spent as a refugee in a very bad condition. For eight years I haven’t seen my mum and dad. They haven’t met their granddaughter. It is a very difficult life for us.”
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A Frightening Future
“I saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson give a speech where he said they would resettle 20,000 people from Afghanistan,” Ebrahim said. “But I don’t know if they are going to help my family.”
He feels that those who didn’t work directly with UK MoD are being helped to leave, while families like his who are in poverty are left behind.
Ebrahim is unsure what will happen next. His family needs to leave the country, but his mother and one brother don’t have a passport, the passport office is closed, and they are determined to travel together.
Even if the office reopens and they get the paperwork they need, they don’t have money to fly and, as a refugee, Ebrahim doesn’t have the money to lend them. He thinks they will have to drive across the border into a neighbouring country. But the main hope is for him to be resettled in the UK where they will later be able to join him.
He recognises the immense effort of the UK Government in evacuating thousands of vulnerable Afghans in the weeks between the Taliban taking Kabul and the UK forces leaving on 28 August.
Now he hopes the UK Government will start relocating those interpreters like him who have eligibility and have already fled to a third country. “Please don’t delay in relocating us,” he said.
“They started resettling interpreters in April,” Ebrahim told Byline Times. “Not many, then in August you are resettling 1000s of people a day because the situation was worse than before. Now, please continue to relocate those who are in a third country already. I see they are saying to reach a third country and we will help you. But they should start relocating those who are already in a third country.”
Ebrahim says he is “thankful to the people of the UK who have done so much to help us.” And he has a clear message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Please help our families. I don’t mean my immediate family – myself, my wife, my child. I mean our mothers, fathers, brothers.”
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