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We will answer unread emails about trapped Afghans ‘within days’, dit Raab

We will answer unread emails about trapped Afghans ‘within days’, dit Raab
Foreign secretary admits some emails were unread, while some were ‘triaged on’ to other departments

The government will answer all unread emails about people with ties to Britain who remain trapped in Afghanistan “within days”, foreign secretary Dominique Raab has promised.

Although the UK evacuated 17,000 people from Kabul since mid-August, reports suggest around 9,000 people who may have been eligible to escape due to their work with British officials were not able to leave.

Thousands of emails from MPs and charities highlighting potentially eligible cases went unread by the Foreign, Bureau du Commonwealth et du développement (FCDO), according to weekend reports.

“We will go over all of those emails [et] make sure they’re properly answered in days,” Mr Raab told Sky News – insisting officials had been focused on the Kabul evacuation before the western military presence came to an end on Monday night.

The cabinet minister added: “We’ll go back and answer all of those emails, but I think people would expect us to have been focused on evacuating individuals, contacting individuals on the ground.”

A whistleblower told The Observer that a FCDO inbox used to receive potential Afghan evacuation cases from MPs and others regularly had an unread backlog of 5,000 emails, with messages from government ministers going unopened.

Mr Raab said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had been leading the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), while the Home Office had been looking at special cases while opening up the resettlement scheme.

“We’re getting a lot of cases coming through that needed to be sifted and triaged on – we did that as best we could,” said the foreign secretary. “The two email accounts people are taking about are the Arap cases led by the MoD, not by the FDCO, and also the special cases which are ultimately was the Home Office responsibility.”

Although defence secretary Ben Wallace said last week that he believed somewhere between 800 et 1,100 Afghans eligible for evacuation would be left behind, the weekend saw claims that up to 9,000 people who may have been eligible were left behind.

Data from a group of 50 Labour MPs shows they are trying to help more than 7,000 constituents and family members trapped in Afghanistan, selon Le gardien – suggesting the number of people making a claim for help is far higher.

The foreign secretary admitted it would be a “challenge” to help people now trying to escape Afghanistan by fleeing to a neighbouring country.

He said the government would hold the Taliban to its promise of safe passage, and was working with neighbouring countries on a “workable route through” for UK nationals to escape.

“We are holding very squarely the Taliban to their explicit assurances – they have made them bilaterally to us, they have made them to other countries and we have now firmed this up with a UN security council resolution – that they must allow safe passage, pas seulement pour nos ressortissants mais pour les Afghans, particulièrement vulnérables, qui souhaitent partir.

Mr Raab said 5,000 Britons had been brought home from Afghanistan in the evacuation operation and the number of UK residents still there is in the “low hundreds”.

Il ajouta: “We lament the fact that anyone would be left behind. I know that the number of UK nationals – the particular responsibility of the Foreign Office – is now down at a very low level.”

Labour’s shadow Middle East minister Wayne David said he is “not full of confidence” that “every conceivable effort” is being made to help everyone with ties to the UK flee the country.

“I was shocked to learn that many of these emails have not been acted – had not even been read," il a dit. “It’s an appalling dereliction of responsibility by the Foreign Office and Dominic Raab has to take responsibility for that.”

Mr Raab also insisted that UK officials did not push to their US counterparts to keep a gate open at Kabul airport before the deadly bomb attack in the area.

American forces decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted to allow British officials to continue evacuating personnel, according to leaked claims from the Pentagon. But Mr Raab said it was “just not true” to suggest Britain called for the airport’s Abbey Gate to be left open.