LONDON: A pregnant woman who worked as a teacher with the British Council in her native Afghanistan before the Taliban seized control of the nation in August 2021, and is currently in Pakistan, said she fears arrest and deportation to her home country.
The unnamed teacher told the i newspaper she is trapped in a cramped hotel room while she awaits a decision on her application for a UK visa under the British government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, and its Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme.
But the visa that allows her to remain in Pakistan has expired months ago, she said, and she is scared even to go to a doctor for a check-up in case she is arrested and deported to Afghanistan, where she said she might face torture or death at the hands of the Taliban.
The woman, who worked with the British Council between 2018 and 2020, was in hiding for 18 months in Afghanistan before she was able to cross the border into Pakistan. She has been in the hotel since then.
“It’s very hard for me,” she told the newspaper. “I lived in a small room for four months. There wasn’t any window, it was a very dark room with no facility or access to air conditioning.
“Then I moved to another room. It’s better but there is no space for even walking. We are not allowed to go outside of our hotel room. The menu that they’re providing is not good. I’m struggling with anxiety, stress and depression. This pregnancy is not easy for me.”
She said it had been about three months since she saw a doctor and added: “It’s very risky. If the police arrest me, they will deport me back to Afghanistan.”
The teacher passed initial ARCS security checks and was told to complete biometric tests in Pakistan. Unlike some colleagues, however, she has yet to receive an email confirming her application has been approved. A number of other Afghans who were living in Pakistan with expired visas have been arrested, according to reports.
“My life is very bad,” the woman said. “If I give birth to my baby in this hotel room, I need lots of things. I have an urgent situation. (The UK government) should pay attention to people like me.
“They should do something for me because giving birth to a baby in Pakistan, in this situation, in this kind of room with no facility, it’s very hard for me.
“I have to go to a doctor. I know it’s very risky. It’s about four months since my visa expired. But what should I do? What’s the solution?”
A British Council spokesperson told the newspaper: “The ACRS scheme is run by the UK government. The British Council is not involved in decision making in any way. The majority of our former contractors who applied to ACRS are still in Afghanistan or third countries. We are incredibly concerned for them and for their families’ welfare and well-being.
“While we are relieved that a number of our former contractors and their families have been recently informed by the UK government that they are eligible for relocation to the UK, we are deeply concerned by the length of time it is taking for their ACRS applications to be progressed and for them to reach the UK. We are pushing for urgent progress with senior contacts within the UK government.”