UK must urgently open Afghan resettlement scheme

The UK must open the new Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme for Afghans at risk as a matter of urgency, the Law Society of England and Wales said, as it continues to receive pleas for help from judges, lawyers and prosecutors in fear for their lives under Taliban rule.

“We have received scores of desperate messages from people who dedicated their lives to building Afghanistan’s justice system and upholding the rule of law and are now in hiding with their families,” Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said.

“Judges, lawyers, prosecutors and others who worked in the justice system tell us they are receiving death threats from the Taliban and prisoners they helped convict – many of them terrorists – who are now roaming the country seeking revenge on those who brought them to justice.

“Our Afghan colleagues are terrified, without work or money, and moving with their families from hiding place to hiding place in fear for their lives.

“These champions of justice tell us they feel abandoned by the international community, including the UK, with which they worked with so closely to establish law and order in pre-Taliban Afghanistan.

“Since the onset of the crisis, which followed the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan, we have been working closely with the UK government and international partners to assist in the evacuation of lawyers at risk. While the UK government may no longer be able to facilitate evacuation from Afghanistan, it should open viable routes to sanctuary for those who manage to escape.

“It is unacceptable the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme is still not open for applications from those at risk, more than three months after Kabul fell. Judges, lawyers, and prosecutors must be eligible for resettlement under this scheme and considered within the first 5,000 to be granted indefinite leave to remain under it.

“I want to say, on behalf of the UK legal profession, to each of you who worked so hard for justice in Afghanistan: We stand in solidarity with you. We recognise the work you have done to support the rule of law in your country and the particular risk you and your family face as a result of that work. We hope with all our hearts for your and your family’s safety.” 

Notes to editors

To arrange an interview with someone who's family members are in hiding in Afghanistan, email Ben Davies.

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