Nationality and Borders Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, I return to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy. This stand-alone amendment seeks to protect and indeed make welcome those Afghan citizens who worked with UK bodies to promote democratic policies and, as a result, are in danger of retaliation from the current Administration in Afghanistan. Most of us will have heard terrifying stories of young women and, by extension, their families hiding in appalling circumstances simply because they are known to have worked with British organisations, including the British Council, the BBC and other non-governmental organisations.

Recent reports by reputable bodies not only indicate public support for Afghan resettlement but cite many distressing case studies of the rejection by ARAP of those who played a central role of advancing the UK’s military and security objectives. This amendment seeks to revise the Immigration Rules in three main ways: by broadening and clarifying the eligible criteria; by narrowing the exclusion criteria; and by inserting into the Immigration Rules a route for the relocation on additional family members. This amendment also brings the Immigration Rules into conformity with the obligations due as a signatory to the 1951 UN refugee convention.

Despite many brave words, the current schemes for rescuing Afghan citizens are limited, in many cases exclusionary and somewhat duplicitous, in that the resettlement offer has been gradually reduced, leaving many hundreds if not thousands at risk, purely because of their association with the UK. We have a moral duty; we chose to go into Afghanistan with many different aims and goals, and often these goals were implemented by Afghans who served us well and courageously. We need to honour our commitment to protect them, as well as our international reputation as a fair and decent country. I might add that, if this amendment is accepted, it will also benefit Ukrainian refugees, who will no doubt continue to seek refuge in the UK for some time to come. I beg to move.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, in supporting Amendment 84B, I declare my interest as a member of the MoD’s former assurance committee on locally employed civilians, set up to monitor the intimidation policy for Afghan interpreters. My concern is that, without this amendment, the relocation possibilities available to former Afghan interpreters will be significantly and unfairly reduced. I acknowledge, of course, that before ARAP our ex gratia redundancy scheme, though not without its problems, nevertheless managed to relocate well in excess of 5,000 interpreters and their families, and I think that number is probably now significantly higher. But ARAP was meant to improve eligibility even further. It now appears that the Government are determined to row back again with new restrictions, even though, at the point of the Taliban’s takeover, there were interpreters who had already obtained security clearance under either the ex gratia scheme or ARAP.

We need—and these people deserve—clarity. This amendment would ensure that they were eligible under category 1 of ARAP. They also deserve transparency of decision-making, but last July the Home Office rejected 21 interpreters on national security grounds for relocation under ARAP, despite the fact that the MoD had already confirmed that they were eligible. Their rejection letters from the Home Office gave no information on why this change of heart was made. Why is there not better alignment between the MoD and the Home Office on this? Nine of them have already had their rejections overturned, following judicial review, and this amendment would ensure that the others could also come to safety in the UK, as well as their family members, as was always the original intention and scope of the pre-ARAP scheme.