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Immigration minister quizzed about female Afghan special forces soldier denied sanctuary in UK

Immigration minister quizzed about female Afghan special forces soldier denied sanctuary in UK

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has been challenged in the Commons over the plight of a female Afghan special forces soldier who is trapped in Turkey after the UK denied her sanctuary.

The story of the mother-of-four, who was forced to flee Afghanistan after the West’s withdrawal, was revealed by The Independent in collaboration with investigative newsroom Lighthouse Reports on Sunday.

Zahab, whose name has been changed for her safety, was one of a select group of women who worked for Commando Force 333, an elite Afghan special forces unit that was set up and paid for by the British government. The unit fought alongside British special forces soldiers and help the UK track and capture Taliban and Isis leaders.

Speaking at Home Office questions in the House of Commons on Monday, Alison Thewliss, an SNP MSP, raised the plight of the many Afghans who are unable to come to the UK through the designated resettlement schemes.

Home office minister Robert Jenrick said the UK was a ‘big hearted country’ when quizzed about the plight of Afghans left behind (PA)
Home office minister Robert Jenrick said the UK was a ‘big hearted country’ when quizzed about the plight of Afghans left behind (PA)

She told immigration minister Robert Jenrick: “The Independent has today laid out a story of a mother-of-four, an Afghan special forces soldier who served in a unit, set up by Britain.”

She explained that the soldier’s application for the Ministry of Defence’s resettlement scheme, designed for those who worked for or with the British armed forces, had been denied along with many other members of her unit CF333 - and its sister unit ATF444.

“Can I ask him, why is he failing so many Afghans?”she asked.

Mr Jenrick replied saying that the government did not encourage anyone “whatever their circumstances are” to come across the Channel in a small boat.

He added: “We have supported almost 25,000 people to come from Afghanistan since the war”. Mr Jenrick added that the government has “issued more than half a million humanitarian visas”, which he added was a “record we should be proud of.”

Zahab, centre right, was trained to gather intelligence on UK and Afghan missions in Afghanistan (Supplied)
Zahab, centre right, was trained to gather intelligence on UK and Afghan missions in Afghanistan (Supplied)

“The United Kingdom is a big hearted country,” he concluded.

It comes after a joint investigation with Lighthouse Reports and Sky News earlier this month, which found that dozens of former members of CF333 and ATF444 have been beaten, tortured or killed by the Taliban since August 2021.

It revealed for the first time that the unit was paid by the British, but that, despite this, many have been rejected for resettlement in the UK. Veterans minister Johnny Mercer has said the government is aware of the rejections and has committed to “re-engaging” with the application process to “make sure there is integrity in that process”.