A Glasgow taxi driver has been forced to return to Scotland without his wife and children after they were unable to board an evacuation flight from Afghanistan following Kabul’s fall to the Taliban.
Jan Mohammed Ahmadzai, who has lived and worked in Glasgow for 16 years, was visiting his wife and children in the Afghan capital when the city fell last August.
His family was allowed to join him on a flight from Afghanistan in November, but outbreaks of violence made access to the airport too dangerous for them. Instead, they fled to Pakistan, reports the Daily Record.
Four months later, the 43-year-old – who has a British passport and a Pakistani visa – made the heartbreaking decision to leave his family behind and return to Glasgow without them after running out of money to feed them.
He told The Record: “I’m very stressed about my children’s future. They miss school and they don’t have any education.
“I have no money or financial support. I had to leave thinking ‘what are we going to do now’? ‘How are we going to eat’? ‘How can I feed my children’ ?
“Right now I don’t have money to feed them and that’s why I forced myself to leave them.
“Even at the very last minute, I didn’t want to leave them.”
His wife Wakeela and children Wajid, 11, Yousaf, 10, Leena, seven, Sammi, five, and baby Ishaq do not have British passports and so remained in Afghanistan while Jan worked in the UK .
But despite being eligible for the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Program, the family is stuck in limbo as they feel no closer to being accepted for the program.
Jan hoped his return to the UK would make it easier to get answers from Home Office officials, but says he has still not received any help.
The father had hoped that his family would be allowed to enter the country.
Another route for the family to enter the UK would be to apply for visas, but the official documents they would need for their applications were destroyed in the suicide bombing at Kabul airport on August 26.
To get Afghan ID cards for the process, they would have to return to their home country and confront the Taliban.
Jan added: “We had to flee because of the Taliban. To go back and get IDs, every office is controlled by the Taliban and they can clearly identify you.
“I have a UK passport and it’s not safe for me.
“If I have to go back to Afghanistan, it will be the British government who will be responsible for it, for me and my life.”
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“I had to take my wife to see a psychiatrist three times after the bomb blast because we were so close. She saw dead bodies and injured people lying in blood.
“She’s seen all of this, so she’s not who she used to be. My kids – even Sammi – if you blow up a balloon, they cover their ears in case it bursts because it reminds them of the bomb.
“Everyone is suffering physically and mentally. They are scared.”
After seeking legal advice, Jan was told he had to show the government he was earning £29,000 a year to apply for visas for his family.
On top of that, the process will cost around £10,000 and with Jan still looking for a job and to settle the debts he has accumulated while he was away, he believes their only option is the resettlement scheme.
“They say in the program we are guaranteed to get in, but they don’t give you information and when you call the Home Office they say they can’t help you,” he said. Jan.
“The Ukrainians are in crisis and I feel so bad for them that we have been in their situation.
“But for an unknown Ukrainian family, a Brit can sponsor them to come here. I’m a British citizen and I can’t even sponsor my own children – my own flesh and blood.
“I want my family next to me. The scheme is our last hope.”
Those cleared to evacuate who were unable to board a flight are offered a place under the scheme if they come to the UK next.
Spouses, partners and dependent children under the age of 18 of such persons are also permitted entry.
Jan was cleared to evacuate and has since returned to the UK, but says his family must travel to the UK despite his clearance was never specified.
From spring 2022, UNHCR will refer refugees to the program and Jan hopes to be one of those families.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK is playing a leading role in the international response to support Afghan citizens at risk and has made one of the largest resettlement commitments of any country.
“The Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) will provide up to 20,000 Afghan women, children and other at-risk groups with a safe and legal route to resettle in the UK.”