'Absolutely terrifying': Afghan refugees arrive in UK after Taliban takeover

19 August 2021, 20:03

Refugees in the UK have voiced their concern for friends and relatives stuck in Afghanistan.
Refugees in the UK have voiced their concern for friends and relatives stuck in Afghanistan. Picture: LBC

By Emma Soteriou

Afghan refugees who fled their country in search of a safer life have shared harrowing stories of loved ones who are in hiding and fear being found by the Taliban, as the first families arrive at Braze Norton.

Afghan civilians who have managed to escape Kabul are expected to be taken to areas including Manchester and Birmingham as a part of the recently announced resettlement scheme.

It comes as the Taliban took control of the country on Sunday.

Footage showed thousands at Kabul airport hoping to escape the country, with the latest plane from the capital arriving in the midlands on Thursday.

The resettlement scheme - announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson - will see 5,000 refugees welcomed in its first year and up to 20,000 in the long-term.

It is intended to help those most at risk, including women, children and other minorities. 

Read more: UK resettlement scheme could give up to 20,000 Afghans refugee status

Read more: Charities urge Government to do more to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan

Birmingham's Councillor John Cotton - Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities - said on Wednesday that the city will "welcome" refugees, having "already agreed to accommodate 80 Afghan interpreters and their families, the first of which are now starting to arrive".

He said he would work with partners to "ensure that the new arrivals are made to feel welcome as they start to build new lives here".

"Refugees are vulnerable people in need of support and the government must help the communities, towns and cities that welcome those fleeing war and persecution across the world," said the councillor.

Read more: Afghanistan: 12 people killed at Kabul airport as crowds try to flee Taliban rule

LBC spoke to numerous Afghan refugees who left their homes to come over for their own safety.

Despite having fled the country, they still fear for Afghanistan and those who are unable to escape.

Former judge and female activist Marzia Babakarkhail left Afghanistan in 2008 after the Taliban tried to kill her twice.

She now lives in Oldham but says she is worried for her female friends - who are also activists - still living there.

"Today I'm crying because it's not our mistake," Ms Babakarkhail said.

She added: "The worst days of my life were the day I left my country and the second day when I lost my mother and I was not allowed to go.

"On the third day, I received messages from my friends and they were all crying in the WhatsApp group. I said 'what should I do?'

"What can we do? It is my last bye to you," they responded.

She went on to say: "They are very brave... but when someone with a gun is walking around your house it's not about being brave or not brave. It's about how you cope with them.

"It's not easy. It's not easy for me. It's not easy for my country."

Read more: Chaos at Afghanistan airport evacuation was 'inevitable', defiant Joe Biden says

Another human rights activist from Afghanistan, who came to the UK over a year ago, said he was scared for his family who are now in hiding.

The man, who wished to stay anonymous, told LBC his relatives have been threatened by the Taliban due to their connections to the Afghan national army.

"Yesterday I talked to my father by WhatsApp and he said, 'the Taliban's come to our apartment and tried to steal our car,'" he said.

"Before the Taliban came to Kabul - one week before that - the Taliban tried to make a plan to kill my father and my family.

"That was 10 days ago. The National Army Department of Intelligence told my father, "be careful - the Taliban tried to kill you".

"But now the Taliban control the country, let's see what will happen."

Read more: Desperate Afghan mothers fleeing Taliban 'throw babies over Kabul airport barbed wire'

Shelley Braddock-Overbury from Refugee Action Colchester said it was an "incredibly difficult situation" for those fleeing Afghanistan right now.

"What's happened in the last week has made people really stop and think about what it means to flee your home.

"It's chaos and danger everywhere. You are not able to make an asylum application, go to an embassy or seek shelter. You basically have to grab a few belongings and get yourself and your family to safety."

She added: "We underestimate the extent of the suffering that people have been through and the trauma associated with that."

Ms Braddock-Overbury highlighted that local authorities across the country are looking for people that have private rentals who can help.

"They're in an absolutely terrifying situation so if we can help why shouldn't we?" she said.

The Home Office said it would not divulge any information on the numbers or locations of resettled Afghans in the UK.