Afghan pilot who served with British forces faces deportation to Rwanda after fleeing to UK in small boat

27 March 2023, 15:39 | Updated: 27 March 2023, 15:55

An Afghan air force lieutenant is being threatened with deportation to Rwanda
An Afghan air force lieutenant is being threatened with deportation to Rwanda. Picture: Alamy (stock images)

By Emma Soteriou

An Afghan pilot who served with British forces and fled to the UK is facing deportation to Rwanda under the government's controverisal new migrant plan.

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The air force lieutenant, who has not been named to protect his family in Afghanistan, flew 30 combat missions against the Taliban. But he has since been forced into hiding.

He claimed he is one of many Afghan forces personnel who have been “forgotten” by US and British forces.

Afghans accounted for the largest number of small boat migrants attempting the Channel crossing in 2022, with more than 9,000 making the journey.

The government has said that it will send Afghans to Rwanda if it finds that people passed through a safe European country makes them “inadmissible” for asylum in the UK.

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The pilot said he had no choice but to travel to the UK in a small boat because there were no other viable safe routes.

“What safe and legal way was there after the fall of Afghanistan?" he told the Independent.

"You entered Afghanistan on the first day as a friendly and brotherly country, and now this bad day has come upon us. [The UK government should] keep the promise of friendship and cooperation that you made, and fulfil it.

"The American and British forces have forgotten us. We worked with them and we helped them like they were our brothers.

"We are not Talib, we are not Isis, so why are they leaving us like this?"

He added that other former Afghan military personnel were also in a similar position to him.

"Every day they threaten to send us to Rwanda or our original country," he continued. "I don’t know what we should do.

"It was impossible in Afghanistan, and it was completely impossible for us to wait for the help of the British and American forces."

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In an email to the pilot, a Home Office official said that, despite a final decision on his case being yet to be made, it had evidence that he had been in Italy, Switzerland and France before reaching the UK.

“[The pilot] may also be removable to Rwanda under the terms of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership between Rwanda and UK,” the email read.

A Home Office spokesperson said the department did not routinely comment on individual cases, but added: “We remain committed to providing protection for vulnerable and at-risk people fleeing Afghanistan, and so far have brought around 24,500 people impacted by the situation back to the UK.

“We continue to work with like-minded partners and countries neighbouring Afghanistan on resettlement issues, and to support safe passage for eligible Afghans.”