Hundreds of UK nationals are stuck in Afghanistan days after the last evacuation flight left Kabul airport. It is feared that hundreds more who are eligible for relocation to Britain are also trapped in the country, which is now in the hands of the hardline Islamist group.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has taken part in meetings in Qatar and Pakistan this week to discuss how some of the people could be helped to safety, said Kabul airport might reopen “in the near future”. He also signalled that Britain was looking for co-operation with the Taliban on crossings.
Here, British nationals and at-risk Afghans share what has happened since the final evacuation flight – and what they plan to do now. The BBC has changed some names to protect the identities of those we spoke to.
Halima – parents stranded after funeral
Halima’s parents, who both have British passports, went to Afghanistan for a family funeral in July, before the Taliban’s rapid surge to power. Their flights back to London were cancelled and days later the country fell to the Taliban. In an email, the UK government told them to go to Kabul airport to be put on an evacuation flight but they turned back after warnings of an attack.
Since the final UK evacuation, they have had no communication from the government. “We are running out of money here. Banks are closed, there is a shortage of food,” they explain. Their only plan is to try to survive until it’s possible to come home.
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, Halima, who is in her early 20s, asked: “Have you got any idea what my family and I are going through?” She has so far received only an automated reply.
Wahid – NHS worker stuck in Kabul
After working in a London hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic, Wahid went to visit family in Afghanistan in early August. After the Taliban seized power, he was advised by the Foreign Office to go to the Baron Hotel, near Kabul airport, where British troops were processing UK nationals for evacuation.
At the gates, Taliban guards tried to tear up his British passport. Photos show the bruises from the humiliating beating they gave him in front of his wife.
“Now I’m moving from house to house. It’s not safe to stay still. I have nightmares,” he explains, adding that his brother was captured by the Taliban last week.
“It’s too scary to try to leave through a neighbouring country. We heard a group of Afghans were killed at the border last week,” said Wahid, who is in his 20s.
“All I can do is wait. All day I look at my phone hoping for an email – but nothing,” he says.
Abdul – worked for the British Council
Abdul was an English language trainer for the British Council, working all over Afghanistan. The council told him he was eligible for the Arap (Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy) scheme, which gives Afghans who worked for the British government the right to resettle in the UK.
He has not yet heard the outcome of his application. “We are left behind. They’ve given us to the Taliban,” he said as the final evacuation flight left.
Fearing for their safety, Abdul and his family have now abandoned their home. With no job, he has sold his wife’s jewellery to make ends meet.
He says he has no plans and no options. “It’s hard for me to return to normal life,” he says. “Even if the borders to neighbouring countries open, I don’t know how to safely get out. No-one is answering my question – how long should we wait to hear from the government?”
Zahra – family fought the Taliban
“There’s no sleep – just worrying,” says Zahra. She is in Leeds. Her family, some of whom fought the Taliban or prosecuted militants under the Western-backed Afghan government, are in Afghanistan.
She registered their details with the UK government but was told this week there were no updates and not to call the government hotline again. “They have provided no solutions,” she says.
The family are in hiding and waiting. One relative, tired of being scared, is considering the dangerous crossing into neighbouring Iran.
“There needs to be some kind of confirmation from the government. That’s what they’re waiting for. If they go to another country, will there be help?” says Zahra, who is in her 20s. “I’m 100% sure my family would take the risk if there was clarity and hope.”
Farwad – trapped with young baby
Farwad went to the Baron Hotel three times to join the evacuation by British soldiers. In one attempt he says he waited for 24 hours in the dust and heat. An Afghan-British national, he had gone back to Afghanistan in 2019 and was living with his wife and young baby, neither of whom have British passports.
He was so certain they would be able to leave the country after the Taliban took power that he left their home.
He says he sent numerous emails and called embassy staff. “I told them our passport says the Queen ‘will afford the bearer such assistance and protection as necessary’ but they didn’t care,” he says.
Farwad is now staying with neighbours. “I don’t have any options. My wife and child don’t have British passports and I cannot leave them. It’s dangerous to go to neighbouring countries. The embassies are closed. We don’t know what to do.”
Sayyid – brother threatened by Taliban
“I’ve dialled the helpline more than 2,000 times,” Sayyid, who lives in Edinburgh with his Scottish wife and children, tells the BBC.
His brother, who worked for a British charity in Afghanistan, has already been threatened by the Taliban, he says. With his mother, he left their home and joined the crowds at Kabul Airport trying to leave. But after missing out on the evacuation, they are left waiting in hope that flights will soon resume.
“I want them to get on one of those flights. They are eligible,” Sayyid says. “My mother is asking for my help and I’m helpless. She said ‘I don’t care about my life, but please take your brother’.”