LONDON: An Afghan boy has been reunited with his twin brother in Britain after enduring a year of being stranded in France.
Obaidullah Jabarkhyl, 11, was separated from his parents and siblings during the evacuation from Afghanistan after the Taliban took over in August 2021.
The young boy then spent a year living in fear in Strasbourg, a French city on the German border, while the Home Office processed his asylum application.
Obaidullah’s wait finally came to an end on Wednesday after he arrived at London’s St. Pancras train station, the Metro newspaper reported.
His twin brother, Irfanullah, greeted him at the station in Britain’s capital, where he had been living with their UK-based family.
Arriving at the Eurostar train station, Obaidullah said: “I’m tired but happy.
“I’m most looking forward to learning English at school and meeting new friends here.”
His cousin, Qamar, criticized the government delays that kept families separated.
Qamar added that the family’s case being widely reported along with the support of MP Bob Blackman led to action being taken.
The 28-year-old British citizen and engineer told the Metro: “As soon as the news went viral the Home Office managed to make a contact on Monday.
“They promised back in March or February to take swift action and they didn’t.
“We are still thankful for the way they helped but I think they should help others because there are many other Afghans in the same situation, little kids living away from home.”
Qamar said that Obaidullah was ready to “put it all behind him” and live a new life in Britain.
“When he arrived on the train Irfanullah cried for him, it was very emotional,” he said.
“He says he still doesn’t believe he’s arrived in the UK. He’s so excited to be here and he wants to put it all behind him now.
“When he left Afghanistan he told me he didn’t feel any happiness for escaping the Taliban regime because he’d left his family behind.
“Coming here was the first time he realized. He was upset that his parents are left behind and he may never see them again.”
The family’s lawyer, Nick O’Loughlan, welcomed the Home Office’s intervention to recover the Afghan boy, but warned that family reunion delays are increasing.
“Home Office guidance states that decisions in family reunion applications should be made within 12 weeks,” O’Loughlan said.
“However, we are routinely seeing these applications take up to a year, often with no reason at all being offered as justification.
“The long delays we are seeing can be extremely damaging to the mental health of applicants, particularly to those who are vulnerable and are left stranded without their family members.
“I hope that the Home Office will acknowledge this and take steps to ensure that their service standards are upheld.”
A Home Office spokesperson did not respond to this criticism, but told the Metro: “Obaidullah Jabar Khil has arrived safely in the UK and reunited with his family.
“We have worked closely with the local authority and social services throughout, who will continue to support Obaidullah and his family.
“During Operation Pitting, we evacuated 15,000 people from Kabul and we continue to do all we can to secure safe passage and enable British nationals and eligible Afghans to leave the country.”