Afghan journalists to have relocation bids reconsidered – lawyer

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Afghan journalists who worked for the BBC in Afghanistan and have been “living in fear” are set to have applications to move to the UK reconsidered following a ruling by a High Court judge, a lawyer said.

Eight journalists had taken legal action against Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Suella Braverman after failing in bids to relocate to the UK.

Mr Justice Lane considered evidence at a recent High Court hearing in London and made a ruling in the journalists’ favour on Monday.

He heard that the eight journalists had worked in “high-profile roles for the BBC and other media agencies” and had made applications under the Government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

Lawyer Erin Alcock, who is based at Leigh Day, said after the ruling that the journalists had been “living in fear”.

“Our clients are pleased their applications will be reconsidered by the ARAP team,” she said.

“They have been living in fear for over 18 months now, waiting to find out whether they will be relocated to the UK.

“During this time the group have been subjected to threats, torture and attacks on their lives because of their work.”

She added: “This case demonstrates the importance of rigorous decision making, given the serious consequences for the applicants should any errors be made.”

A Leigh Day spokeswoman said: “The decisions by ARAP to reject applications from all eight journalists, who worked for the BBC and other agencies supporting the British military in Afghanistan,  were found … to have been made on an erroneous basis.

“The court found that the ARAP caseworker deciding their applications had erred in confining their decisions to the issue of whether working for the BBC amounted to working for Her Majesty’s Government (HMG), at the expense of considering whether each of the journalists could have been working alongside, in partnership or closely supporting an HMG department.”

Lawyers said the journalists had applied for relocation to the UK under the ARAP, but officials had decided they were not eligible for relocation under that scheme.

Afghan journalists' court fight
A judge heard that the eight journalists had worked in ‘high-profile roles for the BBC and other media agencies’ (Jonathan Brady/PA)

They said their applications under a discretionary policy had also been refused and said that decision was “unreasonable and unfair”.

The Leigh Day spokeswoman added: “The court considered there to be ‘more than a fanciful prospect of a different outcome’ in relation to their eligibility, if not for this error.

“Accordingly, the eight applications are to be reconsidered by the Ministry of Defence ARAP team. New decisions are expected within 21 days.”

She said the journalists worked for the BBC, embedded with military personnel, and worked on projects funded by the then Foreign and Commonwealth Office during the time the British military was stationed in Afghanistan before August 2021.

“They exposed Taliban corruption and abuse, reported in support of the British mission, spoke out critically against the Taliban and promoted media freedom, democracy and human rights,” she said.

“Their work resulted in numerous threats and attacks on their lives by Taliban fighters, another criterion for a successful relocation application.”

The journalists had made five complaints about Government decisions.

Mr Justice Lane upheld one complaint and dismissed four.

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