LONON: The British government has processed just two of more than 3,000 months-old applications for sanctuary submitted by Afghans who worked with the UK, a report in The Times of London has revealed.
The newspaper, using figures exposed by the opposition Labour Party, said that there has been a “ballooning” group of some 23,000 applications to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (ARAP) since October, but only 23 percent have been processed.
Since April, only two of the more than 3,000 applications have been processed.
The shocking revelations come amid reports that the number of people working on the ARAP scheme has been slashed by one-quarter since December.
James Heappey, the armed forces minister, confirmed that “decisions have been issued on two of the 3,226 applications received since the beginning of April 2022.”
In March, 15 percent of applications were processed, a significant drop from February’s 33 percent processing rate.
John Healey, the shadow defense secretary, told The Times: “Ministers are failing Afghans who supported our armed forces. The backlog of applications stalled in the system is ballooning.
“The government is simply not dealing with ARAP applications fast enough, while Afghans who worked alongside UK personnel are at grave risk from the Taliban.”
While other backlogs in the British government have been blamed on the sudden pressures of the Ukraine crisis, defense sources told The Times that the problems with the ARAP scheme were due to insufficient manpower.
There are some 700 people with ARAP eligibility still stuck in Afghanistan. Recent reporting from Kabul has exposed how the Taliban are hunting down Afghans who worked with Western governments while they were out of power.
Heappey told The Times that the delays were due to government teams working through applications in order of the date they were received, which meant that more recent applications would have lower rates of success.
He added: “The pace of decision-making has started to slow down as we’ve increasingly received legal challenges,” but reassured reporters that more resources would be put into the ARAP scheme soon.
A government spokesman said: “The ARAP scheme remains open for applications and is not time-limited because we are determined to make sure that those who apply and are eligible can come here. We are working to progress applications as quickly as possible, recognizing (that) processing time can vary given the complexities of individual circumstances such as location, access to IT, employment history, security checks or family circumstances.”