Heaven and hell in battle to flee Kabul as first Afghans arrive in UK

Heaven and hell in the battle to flee Kabul: Lucky 1,400 evacuees begin new life in Britain – but translator’s sick wife was too ill to get through crowd to airport with him

  • Around 1,400 Afghan evacuees arrived at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 yesterday
  • Malalai Hussiny, 19, was one of the first to arrive with her parents at the airport
  • However while it was heaven for some, other Afghans say they face a living hell
  • One interpreter says his wife has been unable to be rescued due to illness
  • He was relieved as she avoided bomb blast as she was unable to go to airport 

Weeping with relief – days of unimaginable horror etched on their faces – they dragged barefoot children and clutched their meagre belongings in plastic bags or battered suitcases.

Yesterday, 1,400 Afghan evacuees arrived at Gate 12 of Heathrow’s Terminal 4. They were about to start their new lives in Britain.

Blinking back tears, Malalai Hussiny was one of the first to arrive with her parents, two brothers and five sisters. The youngest is ten.

The 19-year-old student, who dreams of a new life as a journalist in the UK, had spent the previous four days sleeping on rocks with her family outside Kabul airport, begging for a place on a mercy flight.

Home Secretary Priti Patel (second left) talks to Malalai Hussiny (wearing a green headscarf), a refugee from Afghanistan who arrived on a evacuation flight at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 this morning

Blinking back tears, Malalai Hussiny (pictured) was one of the first to arrive with her parents, two brothers and five sisters

Refugees from Afghanistan arrive on a evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport on August 26, 2021 in London

English teacher who helped educate soldiers at ‘Afghan Sandhurst’ dies a week after being caught in crossfire at Kabul airport 

By Richard Marsden for the Daily Mail 

A teacher of English who worked alongside British Council workers at Afghanistan’s equivalent of Sandhurst Military Academy died in hospital after being caught in crossfire at Kabul airport.

Noor Ahmad Amiri, 26, was queuing with his two brothers and their wives to enter the airport when chaos broke out last week.

He died on Wednesday after spending more than a week in hospital.

The incident has increased the alarm among fearful colleagues who worked for the British Council in Kabul – and who say they should have been evacuated ‘weeks ago’.

One group, who worked for the British Council teaching English to civil servants, have been denied evacuation by the UK.

One of Mr Amiri’s elder brothers, Amir Khan Daneshwar Amiri, described his brother, who was unmarried, as ‘a role model of ethics and service to people’. Mr Amiri, his two brothers and their wives had all been granted US special immigrant visas. After Mr Amiri was shot in the neck, the rest of the family were told to continue through the airport and flown to camps in the Middle East.

A fourth brother – an officer in the Afghan National Army – and his wife were unable to get to the airport. They remain in Kabul, in hiding with the Amiri brothers’ mother and sister.

‘It’s really dangerous for all our family. Everyone is afraid and in hiding,’ said Amir Amiri. A female friend of Noor Amiri, who worked for the British Council’s scheme teaching English to Afghan civil servants, said she has been in constant fear since his death.

The woman, also in her 20s, said: ‘We served them, we did our best. I don’t know why the British Council have left us behind.’

The British Council said the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme is managed by the Ministry of Defence and it has no say in the decision-making process over eligibility.

Her father, who worked at the British Embassy in Kabul as a painter, had been emailed by officials and told to come into the embassy for biometric fingerprinting and new passports.

But by the time the documents were ready, the embassy was surrounded by the Taliban, who learned of the family’s details. 

Terrified, the family-of-nine installed a camera on their front door and kept a watching vigil at all hours to monitor approaching militants, waiting for their opportunity to flee.

Finally at 1am on Sunday, they seized their chance and raced to the airport.

Yesterday Miss Hussiny spoke directly to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who was there to greet arrivals. She said: ‘I am happy to be here. There was so much fear in the last few days. 

‘We didn’t know if we could get out. As a woman, there was no fear before, but in the last few days I didn’t know if we would survive.’

Miss Patel told her: ‘I’m so sorry.…But you are here now and you are safe. That’s the most important thing.’

Border officers told how they heard harrowing stories of Afghans being beaten en route to Kabul airport, with some bearing bloodied wounds on arrival here.

Tim Kingsberry, director of Border Force Heathrow, said: ‘Three men showed me marks on their backs and legs where they had been whipped. 

‘One of them was a former cadet at Sandhurst. He told me he had been whipped and beaten by the Taliban.

‘I met another family the first day with a small baby around six months. They said they lost their child as they went through the gates and the fence. 

‘They got to the other side in the melee, but their little girl was gone. Other family members somehow got the child to them.’

Yesterday some of the evacuees appeared shell-shocked, sitting in silence staring straight ahead, leaving cans of drink on their seats unopened. 

Others were overcome, with some women sobbing as aid workers handing out colouring books to children.

One Border Force officer who speaks Farsi said: ‘Straight away, they want to ask how do I get my child into a school. 

‘That’s all they want. They don’t ask about food or drink. They want to know about schools for their children.

‘People are turning up with nothing. I had a family with five children and the little girl had wet herself. They were begging for a change of clothes as they didn’t have anything. Just the clothes they were standing up in. 

‘Yesterday people were coming in with bandages on their feet, no shoes, just limping through.’

Ian Denison, assistant director of Border Force at Heathrow, described how the terminal had been transformed into a refugee processing centre with less than 24 hours notice, having been mothballed in the pandemic. Around five flights a day started landing from Tuesday. 

The Home Secretary met Afghans arriving at London Heathrow Airport today including Ms Hussiny, 20, and her family

Home Secretary Priti Patel said today that the Government wants to avoid Afghan refugees travelling to the UK unsafely

‘I only got the call at 4am on Monday… We had to mobilise everything at speed.’ Within hours, a fingerprinting station and field hospital had been set up and crates of food, toys and supplies brought in. 

‘Although parts of the terminal remained eerily quiet yesterday with duty-free shops shuttered and cafes closed, Gate 12 was a hub of activity with dozens of Border Force officers, medics, aid workers and military intelligence officers working side by side.

Nearby, doctors in hospital scrubs and ambulance staff were dealing with a number of distressed refugees.

Over three hours, they face a series of ID checks on their documents before all are photographed and fingerprinted. 

Counter-terrorism officers also carry out a final check before they are granted six months’ leave to remain in the UK.

They are then taken to quarantine hotels where they will stay for the next ten days and get Covid jabs. Local authorities will then be asked to find housing and schools.

Miss Hussiny said: ‘I feel mixed emotions. Yes, it is a new life but I have left family and friends behind. 

‘But the help the UK has given us has made me very happy. Now my family is safe and I want to say to the British public: thank you very much.’

Hell… for the translator whose wife was too ill to battle through the airport crush and join him here 

By David Williams for the Daily Mail

A former translator fears his wife, who recently won the right to join him in his new home in the UK, is stranded in Afghanistan after the British dragged their feet in getting her out.

His feelings on hearing of the bomb attacks at Kabul airport yesterday were bittersweet as she had been too ill to try to push her way through the crush on to a flight after several days queueing in sky-high temperatures.

Mohammad said: ‘It is a blessing that for the first time in a week my wife was not there. 

‘This is evil and a reason why people must be rescued but I fear this will end the evacuation.’

Rohina, 21, was one of ten wives of interpreters to win a court battle earlier this month to be brought to the UK. 

A former translator, Mohammed (pictured left) fears his wife, Rohina (pictured right) who recently won the right to join him in his new home in the UK, is stranded in Afghanistan after the British dragged their feet in getting her out

They had all been engaged to be married when their husbands had been quickly relocated to the UK amid fears for their safety.

The men returned to Afghanistan to re-marry, but the wives were initially denied permission to relocate because they had not yet married when the men had first come to the UK.

Four times during the past week, Rohina had battled for hours to reach Kabul airport after being told by UK officials an evacuation flight was available for her, but each time she was forced back.

Twice she collapsed unconscious and was trampled on by the seething crowds. Once she had to be carried clear, her feet covered in blood from being crushed.

Mohammad, 30, a former frontline interpreter, said: ‘It is heartbreaking to hear her cries. She is exhausted and needed medical treatment. 

‘It is impossible for her to try again. The Taliban has closed routes to the airport and there are still many people around the gates.

‘I fear that unless the British can help her in another way then she will watch the final flight leave without her. It is sad and cruel. It should not have been this way.’

Mohammad and Rohina are bitter that they have not had a chance to build a life together in the UK since they married in 2017.

The couple had been engaged when Mohammad, who worked for four years with UK troops on the frontlines of Helmand, was relocated in 2015 and he returned to marry two years later. 

His feelings on hearing of the bomb attacks at Kabul airport yesterday were bittersweet as she had been too ill to try to push her way through the crush (pictured) on to a flight after several days queueing in sky-high temperatures

Because of the immigration rules, she was unable to join him and had to apply for a visa.

Had they been married when he relocated, she would have been allowed to come to the UK automatically. 

Rohina tried for more than two years for a visa – the processing delayed by Covid – but to her dismay in April she was refused by the British embassy in Kabul, one of ten wives of ex-translators in the UK who were rejected.

In desperation the families began legal action against the British Government to allow them to join their husbands in this country. 

Their cases were highlighted by the Daily Mail’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign.

The courts ruled in favour of the wives this month and urgent visas were granted, but by then the Taliban was advancing on Kabul.

Mohammad said: ‘Why did it take the courts to rule on such a simple matter? The delay could cost a life.’ 

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