‘They left us to die’: UK Afghan aid workers in hiding from Taliban | global development

Afghan staff who worked as contractors on British aid projects fear for their lives after they were not granted resettlement in Britain.

The Guardian has been in contact with four families who said they were targeted Taliban Because they worked for the UK government, they are now forced into hiding.

Ahmed Shakib, who worked for six years at Adam Smith International (ASI), a consultancy firm that has contracted on a number of UK-funded projects in AfghanistanHe said Britain did not help him with the evacuation. He, his wife and children, ages 9, 7 and 3, fled for their lives.

“Every minute, every moment, is crucial to us. We change our home address on a random basis in order to disguise ourselves,” said Shakib, who spoke to the Guardian while hiding in a remote location outside Kabul. “The day begins with fear and ends with despair.”

The family fled their home in Kabul for the first time in July, when Shakib began receiving death threats.

They were fortunate to escape two weeks ago when they moved elsewhere one night before the Taliban knocked on the door of a relative’s house where they were staying.

During his time at ASI, Shakib worked on the Afghan Ministry of Finance budget project along with international consultants.

Apply to Afghan Deportation and Assistance Policy The Arap Program – a British government scheme to help people who worked with the British government relocate – on August 18, after the Taliban captured Kabul.

Shakib received an email response four days later, asking for his family’s details. Excited, he prematurely told his children that they might be leaving soon. But he hasn’t heard from them since he replied.

He now believes his family is unlikely to qualify under the current criteria. Other people’s applications were rejected because they were not directly employed by the British government.

British citizens evacuated from Kabul on board a military plane.
British evacuation flight from Kabul. Hundreds of Afghans who worked on British projects feel abandoned. Photo: LPhot Ben Shread/Ministry of Defense/EPA

“My daughter now asks me every morning about the latest updates on our evacuation,” Shakib said. “My children are constantly asking about their future. My wife is completely broken. They left us to die.”

The couple are terrified that the Taliban will soon catch up with them.

“I want to live a life free from fear. I want peace for my family in an atmosphere of democracy,” Ahmed’s wife said. “I just want us to be alive.”

In response to a question from The Guardian about whether it plans to expand Arap eligibility to include contractors, the UK Ministry of Defense said: “During the pitting processWe have worked tirelessly to safely evacuate as many people as possible from Afghanistan, and have flown over 15,000 people from Kabul including thousands of applicants from Arap and their families.

“We will continue to do everything we can to support those who have given us support, and our commitment to those eligible for resettlement is not limited by time and will continue. The Arap scheme remains open for applications and we will continue to support those eligible.”

ASI said it employed hundreds of Afghan nationals on UK-funded projects between 2002 and 2018. A spokesperson said: “We believe, based on the legitimate threats to life received by our former employees, that the Taliban does not discriminate between Afghan nationals who have been directly involved in international development work. For the benefit of the UK Government – eligible for Arap – and those who have been employed by contractors such as ASI on projects designed and funded by the UK Government.

“We continue to pressure the UK government to extend the scope of the Arap scheme to Afghan nationals who were previously employed indirectly by the UK government through contractors doing work on behalf of the UK government and who are more vulnerable and more vulnerable.”

Zabih Deshiwal*, 29, has worked on UK-sponsored counter-terrorism, security and justice projects for contractors ASI and Coffey International, which later became Tetra Tech International Development. He remained on the run with his wife, three-year-old son, and three-month-old daughter for four weeks.

“My friend who has a shop next to my house [in Kabul]He told me that the Taliban were looking for me and others who were working for foreigners.

Deshwal applied for the Arab scheme in May but was turned down because he was not a direct employee of the British government, despite his role in high-risk projects. He appealed the decision in late July and has yet to hear back.

The family rationalizes its food by eating only two meals a day. Deshiwal found it impossible to fall asleep, as the slightest noise made him panic.

“Our lives are now in great danger,” he said. “We can’t stay like this for long. It is like an endless nightmare that is getting worse and worse by the day.”

Yasmin Ahmed, UK director of Human Rights Watch, said the British government should not “split the hair” over whether someone is a contractor or a direct employee.

She said, “People are rushing from hideout to hideout.” The UK has days, not months, to save lives. It must do everything in its power to fulfill its promise and resettle those Afghans who stood by us when we needed them most.”

* Name changed to protect identity

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