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Afghan pilot who served with British armed forces faces deportation to Rwanda

Daily Express logo Daily Express 27/03/2023 Christopher Sharp
BRITAIN-AFGHANISTAN-EVACUATION © Getty BRITAIN-AFGHANISTAN-EVACUATION An Afghan pilot who flew with the British armed forces in Afghanistan could be deported to Rwanda under the Government's latest immigration scheme. The pilot, who did not wish to be named to protect his family, arrived in the UK on a small boat because there was no safe viable route.

The air force lieutenant, who flew 30 combat missions against the Taliban, was forced into hiding after British and American forces left the country.

Speaking to the Independent, he says he is one of many Afghan personnel who have been "forgotten" and the promises of "friendship and cooperation" had also been abandoned as the two nations left the country.

He said: "The American and British forces have forgotten us. We worked with them and we helped them like they were our brothers.

"We are not Taliban, we are not ISIS, so why are they leaving us like this?"

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After making his way to the UK, the pilot is now living in a Home Office hotel, waiting to find out if he will be sent to Rwanda. The Home Office said it had evidence that he had passed through a safe country before entering the UK.

The Government has said that it will send Afghans to Rwanda if it finds that people passed through a safe country before reaching Britain's shores.

The pilot said the situation he found himself in was similar to many of his countrymen. He said: "Every day they threaten to send us to Rwanda or our original country. I don't know what we should do."

His case highlights a growing sense of unease over how Afghans were treated in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Afghans continue to wait at airport in Kabul © Getty Afghans continue to wait at airport in Kabul

The former head of the British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, said that while the initial UK military response to helping Afghans had been good, that too many had been left behind.

He said: "It must be very difficult for them, and we should - I believe - be doing everything we can to help them out. If we can do it, whatever we can do."

This pilot isn't the only Afghan flyer to fear being sent back to Afghanistan. Another also told the Independent: "The British were part of the coalition forces and we had several mutual missions with them.

"I wish to come to the UK because I deserve to be there to save my life. We, as the Afghanistan fighter pilots, played a big role in the war against the Taliban and other terrorist groups."

Although the unnamed pilot in the Home Office hotel could be deported to Rwanda, there is a chance he may not be if he qualifies for another government scheme.

Although his arrival by small boat means he qualifies for the Rwanda scheme, he could be allowed to stay under ARAP, the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme, one designed to bring those who helped British forces during the war in Afghanistan to the UK.

Since it was set up, it has brought more than 11,000 people to safety, but another 4,300 eligible people are still waiting to be located.

It is hoped that this Afghan pilot may qualify under category four of ARAP, one reserved for special cases.

A home office building and a soldier walking down some steps © Getty Images A home office building and a soldier walking down some steps

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