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Afghan interpreter and his family travel to safety in UK after successful legal fight

A former interpreter with the British army in Helmand, his wife and young children have arrived safely in the UK after waging a lengthy legal fight to relocate from Afghanistan. 

Posted on 31 October 2023

The interpreter was initially approved for relocation to the UK, from Afghanistan, in late 2020, but came up against a Home Office refusal to issue him and his family with entry visas, resulting in them missing the chance to evacuate in August 2021. After a series of judicial review challenges, in early 2023, the Home Secretary approved the family for visas. 

The man and his young family then found themselves stranded in Iran after the Home Secretary imposed a rule that Afghan citizens found eligible to travel to and live in the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) should have permanent accommodation in place before they arrived. They were told the housing requirement was imposed because there was no suitable accommodation (being accommodation other than hotels) for them in this country. The Home Office said that unless and until suitable accommodation became available – the “housing requirement” – it would not issue any more visas or arrange any more flights to the UK for ARAP-eligible Afghans.

The family were left essentially confined to their hotel rooms in Iran, living in fear of mistreatment at the hands of authorities including possible arrest, detention and deportation back to Afghanistan.

Represented by law firm Leigh Day, the interpreter, known as AZ, applied for judicial review of the “housing requirement” claiming it is unlawful because it amounts to a condition that can’t be met, it directs caseworkers to act in breach of Immigration Rules, and there is no law which allows the Home Secretary to impose a condition that the applicant has housing available in the UK. Shortly after filing proceedings, the Home Secretary announced the resumption of visa processing for applicants in third countries but did not roll back the housing requirement. 

At a hearing on Tuesday 17 October, Mr Justice Chamberlain granted an application for interim relief made by the former interpreter, ordering that he and his family be transferred to the UK forthwith due to the specific risks they faced in Iran. At a further interim hearing on Friday 20 October, counsel for the Government confirmed that government policy has now been changed to allow those eligible under the ARAP and ACRS schemes to be resettled to the UK without a prior requirement for settled accommodation. 

Last week, the former interpreter and his family arrived safely in the UK.

Leigh Day lawyer Erin Alcock who represents AZ said

“We are relieved that our client and his family have arrived safely, and are so happy to finally welcome them to the UK. It was irrational for the UK Government to leave our client and so many others in risky situations abroad when they had been approved for relocation to safety in the UK. The Government has now removed the housing requirement from the relocation process, paving the way for many more families to safely complete their relocation and start their new lives in the UK.”

Adam Straw KC of Doughty Street Chambers was instructed throughout the proceedings for AZ. Miranda Butler of Landmark Chambers was instructed in the challenge to the housing requirement. Alexandra Littlewood and Nikolaus Grubeck of Monckton Chambers were instructed in the challenges relating to the visa refusals. AZ was also assisted at various points in the proceedings by Special Advocates, Shaheen Rahman KC, Martin Goudie KC and David Lemer.

Erin Alcock
Human rights Judicial review

Erin Alcock

Erin is an associate in the human rights team

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