Eight-year-old British girl stranded in Afghanistan while parents are in UK

Eight-year-old British girl stranded in Afghanistan while parents are in UK

An eight-year-old British girl is stranded in Afghanistan while her parents are in the UK due to what has been described by lawyers as “an abject lack of concern” by the British government.

Ministers are being asked to “act with urgency” after it emerged that the British-Afghan child, who cannot be named to protect her identity, has been blocked from joining her mother and father in Britain despite the current dangers in Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul last summer.

The girl, who turned eight in August last year and was born in Afghanistan, is currently living with extended family in the city, where members of the Taliban are said to be going “door to door” searching for people with links to western countries.

She has not attended school since the Taliban gained control in August, and relatives who are caring for her have told The Independent she is “scared” and “wants to be with her parents in the UK”.

Her mother, who currently lives in east London, has said she is “continually worrying” about the safety of her daughter and is desperately trying to get her to Britain.

The girl is British by virtue of her father’s UK citizenship, but her parents’ efforts to get her a passport since 2014 were unsuccessful due to what lawyers described as a “combination of error and unlawful decision-making” by the Home Office over a number of years.

Ministers have now been accused of acting with “an indifference that is simply incomprehensible” in response to the requests for help to get the girl out of the country made since the Taliban took hold seven months ago.

The girl’s uncle, who she currently lives with along with his parents and brother, said they were in an increasingly precarious situation, and that the girl was desperate to be in Britain with her parents.

He said the family were living with limited electricity, and were having to heat their home using a coal fire that can emit poisonous gases – but is the “only way to keep warm”.

“We are like prisoners in our own home,” said the man, who cannot be named to protect the family. “We’re too scared to go out. Our financial situation has also worsened. We have no income, no jobs. It’s getting worse day by day.

“Recently the Taliban’s house searches have increased. They’re going door to door, going inside and looking for evidence of families being in touch with relatives abroad.” He added that they were hiding the child’s documents due to fears that they would be destroyed.

On the girl’s current state, he said: “She’s young but she’s smart. She feels the atmosphere. She’s scared. She knows the Taliban [and] what is happening. She’s been crying more. She cries because she wants to go to be with her parents in the UK. She’s saying, ‘I have a passport now, why can’t I go?’”

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last year (REUTERS)

Her mother, who lives with her other daughter, aged two, said: “I’m really worried, especially when I hear the news that things are getting worse. I’m trying anything that I can to get her out and here with me.

“I don’t even know how to describe how I feel. She’s on my mind every minute, every second of the day, I see her in front of my eyes. I’m continually worrying about what she’s going through.”

After the child’s parents applied for a British passport for her in 2014, what later emerged to be an error in processing a DNA test, followed by what lawyers describe as “an unlawful failure to apply the law” by the Home Office, led to it being refused the following year.

Her father has been settled in the UK since he was a child, and in 2016 her mother travelled to the UK on a spouse visa, leaving their daughter with her husband’s family and believing that the passport issue would be sorted out quickly. However, further applications for a passport submitted in 2016, 2017 and 2020 were also refused.

The family’s current lawyers, Wilson Solicitors LLP, got involved in the case in January 2021 and submitted a new application to the Home Office highlighting the errors.

They had received no decision when the Taliban took over in Kabul last year, and the firm immediately flagged her case in order for her to be evacuated.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) subsequently called forward the girl, and her uncle to accompany her, as “vulnerable persons” to be evacuated on 24 August – but this was ultimately unsuccessful.

A passport was issued for the child in November, but is currently with her solicitors in the UK, and due to the current situation in Afghanistan they are unable to send it to the family. The lawyers are calling on the government to grant her an emergency travel document.

Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham, who has been trying to raise the case to the government, told The Independent she had received no helpful responses from ministers.

“In the cold light of day, they surely have to turn their minds to this little girl, who is stuck in Afghanistan through no fault of her own, no fault of her mother, but because of a Home Office blunder,” she said.

“Circumstances in the country are deteriorating further and we need ministers to act with urgency to bring her home.”

Hundreds of people were evacuated out of Kabul airport in January but some have been left behind (MoD) (PA Media)

Rebecca Morris, the family’s solicitor, said: “The attitude taken by the government to my client – the abject lack of concern for a little British girl trapped in Kabul – has been disturbing and disappointing at every step of this case.

“The indifferent and careless response our requests for help have met has been incomprehensible. Ministers and government departments promised to shift heaven and earth for those left behind when the evacuation ended.”

The FCDO has publicly stated that the UK has assisted more than 3,400 people to leave Afghanistan – including 1,200 British nationals – since the end of Operation Pitting, the mass evacuation in August.

But Ms Morris said she had been told by the government that a “lack of presence in Afghanistan” prevents it from helping the child to obtain a visa to a neighbouring country where a British embassy could issue her an emergency travel document.

An FCDO spokesperson did not address the case directly, but said: “We are doing all we can to enable remaining British nationals and their eligible family members to leave Afghanistan, including working closely with our partners in the region to keep as many routes out of Afghanistan open as possible.

“We are in contact with British nationals and others we are trying to help.”

Desk Team

Desk Team