'Dogs were given permission to be evacuated but not Afghan researchers'

27 August 2021, 17:50 | Updated: 27 August 2021, 17:52

By Tim Dodd

Professor Brad Blitz who leads hundreds of British government-funded researchers in Afghanistan tells LBC none of his 350 researchers have been evacuated to the UK, despite the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace having "the list" of them.

It comes as the UK's efforts to get people out of Afghanistan have entered their final hours with no further people being processed to leave the country.

Professor Brad Blitz leads a team on a UK government programme which has hundreds of researchers, scientists and artists still in Kabul who have not been successfully evacuated.

Mr Blitz told Eddie Mair: "We had researchers in the field as of six weeks ago and they were conducting surveys for us, and right now they are in desperate need of protection. They're in desperate need of evacuation.

"Unfortunately of our 350 researchers, only a handful have managed to get out. 25 were evacuated to Poland, one to Italy, one to Sweden, and no one has managed to get to Britain. Even though they are all eligible under the ARAP scheme."

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Mr Blitz was referring to the UK Government's Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy which offers relocation or other assistance to current and former locally employed staff in Afghanistan.

He continued: "They have simply not received visas or invitations to proceed to the airport."

"What do you think of that?" Eddie asked.

"It's horrifying, it's just outrageous," Mr Blitz replied.

"Here are people who've been funded by the government... who've put themselves at risk, in part, to help promote science and the reputation of British universities... and they've simply been abandoned."

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Eddie asked: "Do you have any idea why Britain has been unsuccessful in getting any of your people out when other countries have done much better?"

Mr Blitz said: "They set up a system which was designed to fail. They set up a system far too late, they were not responding by email or phone, they were not entering people into the system and as a result people were not given visas.

"Without that piece of paper, they couldn't access the airport, they couldn't get past a gate, and therefore they couldn't get on that plane.

"The British government has had details of our researchers for over a week.

"Ben Wallace has the list of our researchers. They know who they are, they simply have not prioritised them.

"In our case, dogs were given permission to be evacuated and not Afghan researchers."