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Person on no-fly watchlist flown into UK from Afghanistan during evacuation operation

Written by on 23/08/2021

A person from Afghanistan on the UK’s no-fly watchlist has been flown into Birmingham as part of the British evacuation operation in a potential security breach, Sky News can reveal.

The individual, who is not being identified by the government, is understood to have reached UK soil on a British military plane, with officials being alerted “overnight”.

The “no-fly watchlist” is designed to block individuals who are considered a security threat from reaching the UK.

The government will not say if the individual has been detained. If they pose a threat, the UK government will not now be able to return them to Afghanistan after Britain suspended flights.

The news of the Birmingham case emerged at a briefing for MPs by ministers and officials today.

Opposition MPs worry this is a security breach, although government sources say that the fact the individual has been identified shows the watchlist is working. They also stress that people can be flagged on the “no-fly” list for a wide variety of reasons.

British officials at the airport in Kabul are warning of a spike in impersonations, forged documents and forged passports.

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Ministers are saying this is why we cannot “open the gates” to allow anyone in without checks.

Sky News understands that the US does not have any such checks, and people will be processed in the US on arrival.

MPs were told today that five people on Britain’s “no-fly watchlist” attempted to leave Afghanistan with UK help. Four of the five were prevented from flying, but one person made it through to Birmingham.

The revelation was made by a senior Border Force official in a call to MPs earlier today. He also said that one more individual was intercepted in Frankfurt, and he was blocked from continuing his journey to the UK though his family were allowed to continue.

This is a significant increase in the number of people on the “no-fly” list trying to gain access to the UK. Normally from Afghanistan, officials would get one attempt every four or five months – so five red flags in a week is a significant increase.

Kevin Foster, the Home Office minister, told MPs on the call that while the UK must help those under threat from the Taliban, they must be “mindful” of people who pose a threat to the UK.

Ministers are warning against diluting or speeding up checks to get desperate Afghans out of the country as the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warns the operation on the ground could be over in “hours now, not days”.

A government spokesperson said: “There are people in Afghanistan who represent a serious threat to national security and public safety.

“That is why thorough checks are taking place by government, our world-class intelligence agencies and others.

“If someone is assessed as presenting as a risk to our country, we will take action.”

British officials said there is a real risk of Islamic State militants seeking to exploit the UK’s emergency scheme designed to help former Afghan interpreters and other local staff who worked for the UK military and diplomats in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

A huge effort is under way to run security checks on each application, but there is also an urgency to get families on to aircraft before Kabul airport’s evacuation mission is forced to stop – something that could happen imminently.

There is also a concern about Islamic State trying to target British troops conducting the evacuation by inserting a suicide bomber into the chaotic crowds massing outside the airport.

The longer the evacuation continues, the greater the risk, security sources said.

 Sky News

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