Afghan journalists challenge Government failures to relocate them to safety

A group of 8 Afghan journalists have issued a judicial review challenging the failure and delays of the British Government to consider their urgent requests to be relocated to safety in the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

The group of journalists are at imminent risk from the Taliban having worked for the BBC covering military operations and human rights issues in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.

In August 2021 the Foreign Secretary promised safety to Afghan journalists at risk from the Taliban as a result of their association with the UK. These special cases would be considered for relocation on an exceptional basis.  

There is overwhelming evidence of the risk to journalists. The Taliban deem journalists working for British media as agents or spies of the UK government, and following the takeover of Afghanistan, around half of media operations have ceased operation, foreign media and BBC Afghan services have been banned, and the UN and civil society, including Reporters Without Borders, have raised grave concerns about free speech, media crackdowns, as well as the arbitrary disappearances, arrests, detention and targeting of journalists. The risks to journalists are also accepted in the UK Home Office policies on Afghanistan.

The grave situation faced by this group of 8 journalists has received media coverage and the support of the National Union of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists.

However, nine months after ARAP requests were made, the group are yet to receive any substantive response from the Government, and no timescale for any relocation decisions have been provided.

As a result of these alleged unacceptable failures and delays the journalists remain at risk in a gravely deteriorating situation. Their identities and details cannot be disclosed but they have been subjected to threats, as well as shootings, kidnap, detention, beatings and torture. 

Only yesterday a damning report by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee into the Government’s mishandling of ARAP and evacuations found that: “The Government entirely failed to plan how it would assist … Afghans who had supported the UK mission, without being directly employed—such as journalists, judges, and activists”.

The Government is expected to provide a response to the case in the next fortnight.

The group of journalists are represented by Erin Alcock with Léa Lehouck and Leila Albin at Leigh Day and Adam Straw QC, Catherine Meredith, and Donnchadh Greene at Doughty Street Chambers.

The Leigh Day press release can be found here.