Raab admits British nationals still in Afghanistan face ‘challenge’ to find route out of country
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 31/08/2021
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted it will be a “challenge” for British nationals left in Afghanistan to now find a route to the UK.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Raab said the number of British nationals who had not been taken as part of the now-ended UK evacuation effort was in the “low hundreds”.
Acknowledging it was “unclear” when the airport in Afghanistan‘s capital Kabul would again be operating – following this weekend’s pullout of US and UK troops – Mr Raab advised those still seeking to leave the country they could find a route to the UK via neighbouring countries.
The foreign secretary said, since April, more than 17,000 British nationals, Afghans who worked with the UK, and other vulnerable people had been evacuated from the country.
But, of those UK nationals who were still left in Afghanistan, Mr Raab admitted there were “low hundreds” remaining in the country.
“Most of those are difficult cases where it’s not clear around eligibility because they’re undocumented,” he said.
“We’ve now put in place the arrangements with third countries, or we’re putting them in place.
“I’ve spoken to some of the key third countries, so have other ministers, to make sure we can have a workable route through for those outstanding cases.”
Asked whether his advice for those UK nationals still in Afghanistan would be for them to head across one of the country’s borders, Mr Raab added: “It depends if they are eligible or not and, of course, we’re in contact with them to be able to establish that.
“That’s made more difficult because we don’t have the base at the airport.
“Certainly if they’re eligible British nationals, there are embassies in those third countries – whether it’s Pakistan or one of the stans.”
Pressed on how British nationals in Afghanistan might reach one of Afghanistan’s borders, now the country is under Taliban control, Mr Raab admitted it would be a “challenge”.
But the foreign secretary said the UK would hold the Taliban to their “explicit assurances” – as well as the terms of a UN Security Council resolution passed on Monday – that they “must allow safe passage not just for our nationals but other Afghans, particularly vulnerable ones, who wish to leave”.
The Taliban are now in control of Kabul’s airport following the final withdrawal of Western troops in recent days. And Mr Raab said there was “a degree of scepticism” about the group’s “capacity to run that airport safely”.
“We know that some countries are trying to help them with that effectively functional capacity,” he said.
“Of course the previous government had air traffic controllers and things like that. But at what stage that will be ready and viable for international travel, at this point, is unclear.”
He added: “What support they get and how quickly they can then salvage a functional operational capacity remains to be seen.
“Which is why we’re making sure – working with those third countries, working with our embassies – that, actually, if people can get to the border, we can process those cases.”
© Sky News 2020