Photo used for illustrate purposes. File/Reuters
The wife of an Afghan man who served with the British forces and was commended for “outstanding” work as an interpreter has been refused entry to the UK by the Home Office, prompting fears that she faces death.
Hafizullah Husseinkhel, 31, who fled from Afghanistan in 2014 after receiving death threats from the Taliban, said he felt “betrayed” and “terrified” after the government declined to grant his wife entry to the UK after they fled Kabul following the Taliban takeover.
A former army officer who served alongside Mr Husseinkhel in Helmand Province, and describes him as a “crucial member of the team”, said to deny him the right to bring his family to Britain was “cruel on the UK’s part”.
Mr Husseinkhel’s wife, 25, and mother, 61 – whom he doesn’t wish to name over fears for their safety – have been at a hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, paid for by the British High Commission, since January 2022 after fleeing from Kabul. His father passed away with Covid in June 2021 and his siblings have managed to flee to other Western countries.
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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) indicated in October 2021 that his wife and mother could come to the UK to join him under the Afghan Relocation Assistance Programme (ARAP), on the condition that they had their visa application approved by the Home Office.
However, after months of waiting for the Home Office to accept their cases, his wife received a refusal letter from them in response to a previous family reunion application she had submitted, stating that it was “not satisfied” that their relationship was “genuine and subsisting”.
The Independent understands that the Home Office is not considering an ARAP application for his wife – despite her having been accepted by the MoD – while his mother’s application is still pending.
Mr Husseinkhel, who lives in Derby working as a delivery driver, says this means his wife and mother – whose right to be in Pakistan expired two months ago – will soon need to leave the hotel, leaving them liable to deportation to Afghanistan, where he says they will be at risk of death.
“They will be killed straight away because they will be treated as spies, because everyone knows they’ve been in the hotel because of my job. They will be easy targets for the Taliban,” he told The Independent.
“I was told they’re eligible to come here. I’m in shock. How can the Home Office do this? I served the British forces, I saved lives, and today what are they going to do with my family? No one cares about them. I feel betrayed and terrified for their safety.”
Peter Gordon-Finlayson, a former army officer who worked alongside Mr Husseinkhel while serving as a captain in Helmand Province, said: “Hafiz served with British troops on consecutive Herrick campaigns, keeping him away from his family for years. He was an integral and crucial member of the team.
“Following the death of several of his family members, his wife is one of the few pillars of support he has left. To deny them the ability to be together seems particularly cruel on the UK’s part and is having a noticeable impact on his mental health.”
A certificate issued to Mr Husseinkhel by a cavalry regiment of the British Army, seen by The Independent, states: “In recognition of his outstanding contribution as an interpreter for the Formation Reconnaissance Squadron during Operation HERRICK 14 Apr – Nov 2011.”
Celia Record, a barrister representing Mr Husseinkhel and his family, said his wife and mother were among many Afghans in Pakistan waiting for months on end for the Home Office to process their visas, describing the dituation as “invidious” and “chaotic”.
“There’s this backlog of people, we’re talking mainly women, who are waiting in Pakistan without their UK visas and with their leave to remain in the country having expired, and they’re in despair. It’s just not right. It’s Kafka at its worst I would say,” she said.
Referring to Mr Husseinkhel’s wife’s refusal, Ms Record added: “She is his next of kin. Why shouldn’t she come here? I don’t understand why a former interpreter can’t have his next of kin in the UK.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases. During Operation Pitting we evacuated 15,000 people from Kabul and we continue to do all we can to secure safe passage and enable British nationals and eligible Afghans to leave the country.”