Defence minister slammed for getting Afghan resettlement figures wrong

Kabul airport
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Defence minister James Heappey is under fire after making a misleading claim about Afghan asylum-seeker figures. The Afghanistan veteran told the House of Commons that hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees had applied for asylum in the UK.

This claim was later shown to be incorrect. In fact, actual figures for Afghans who are eligible or have been settled in the UK are a fraction of those suggested by Heappey.

Untrue claim

In an debate on the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), Heappey told MPs:

We have had hundreds of thousands of applications – the vast majority of which have come from people who either served in the Afghan national forces, who, whilst their effort was heroic, was never who ARAP was aimed at.

Yet inquiries made by the Independent showed that this claim was untrue. In fact, there had been 138,000 applications. And this is according to Ministry of Defence figures – the department where Heappey works.

Moreover, only a tiny fraction of overall asylum applications have been accepted. The UK has resettled even fewer Afghans. Of just over 15,000 Afghans considered eligible for help, only 12,000 have relocated to the UK.

Asylum let down

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran slammed the Tories’ record on Afghanistan:

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Getting the facts right is surely the very least that we owe to those brave Afghans who supported our efforts in Afghanistan – and have been so badly let down by the Conservative government.

The UK’s record on Afghanistan after the 2021 collapse of US control has been mixed, to say the least. The government refused to hold an inquiry. It was also later revealed that rescue dogs were flown out of the country ahead of people.

Add to this the treatment of Afghan asylum seekers who did make it to the UK. For example, one Afghan pilot now faces being sent to Rwanda as part of the Tories’ brutal deportation scheme. Further, a number of relocated Afghan families have reportedly been threatened with eviction on the orders of home secretary Suella Braverman.

With all this in mind, top Tories should be getting the facts right. But even that seems to be too much to ask.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/VOA, cropped to 770 x 403

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