DUBAI: In September, 14 former BBC journalists were stranded in Kabul, Afghanistan, reported The Guardian newspaper.
The journalists accused the BBC and the UK embassy in Kabul of rejecting their calls for assistance. They said they were living in hiding in fear for their lives.
One of the 14 journalists escaped from Afghanistan but has been stuck at a refugee camp in the UAE since October. The journalist and his family are looked after well, with the family thanking the UAE for providing a safe haven, but they can’t go further than 100 meters from the building they’re staying in. Moreover, the UAE will not accept asylum applications.
“My hope is that the UK government will fulfill their commitment towards me and my family. But right now it seems no one is paying attention to my case. Since arriving in the UAE two months ago there has been zero progress,” the journalist said in an interview with The Guardian.
He had hoped the UK would grant him a visa but his hopes have waned over time. “My life is at risk because I have worked for the BBC. The UK government knows this but they have done nothing to help me,” he said.
Unfortunately, he isn’t alone. His struggle reflects the plight of many Afghan immigrants who can neither return home nor travel to any place willing to grant them refugee status.
The UK government announced that the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) would start in January 2022 supporting up to 20,000 Afghans, in addition to the existing Afghanistan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
The escaped journalist, however, has to wait until next year to apply for ACRS, and even when the program opens, it will only accept referrals for resettlements from NGOs. He also does not qualify for ARAP.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which is representing the journalist and others in the same situation, said that time is running out.
“Three months ago, our government promised a ‘warm welcome’ to Afghan refugees but increasingly it seems that there’s precious little welcome to be found,” said interim chief Minnie Rahman.
The National Union of Journalists has also been lobbying the UK government to help secure visas for all Afghan former BBC staff. “While progress on the resettlement process happens at a snail’s pace, journalists affected are living in fear and being forced into hiding. We need urgent and robust measures put in place to secure safe passage to the UK for all those Afghans at such high risk,” said Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ.
While the BBC extended its “sympathy with former staff,” it said it was regretful that it wasn’t in a “position to extend our direct support to them.”
The UK Home Office said that it wouldn’t discuss individual cases: “We continue to work at pace to open the scheme (ACRS) amid a complex and changing picture, working across government and with partners such as UNHCR to design the scheme.”