British children left stranded in Afghanistan after father killed by car bomb
Five British children were left stranded in Afghanistan with their mother after their father was killed in a car-bomb attack.
The victim, who was a British-Afghan dual national, had called on the UK government for help to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban took over in the summer of 2021.
But his brother said his sibling had been told he would have to leave his wife and children behind if he wanted to be evacuated during Operation Pitting, the British military’s effort to remove British nationals and eligible Afghans in August 2021. He refused to abandon them and was killed in a roadside blast months later.
The brother, who lives in London (and whose name we are withholding in order to protect his family), claimed that the failure of the UK government to take action to help bring the family back to the UK played a part in his sibling’s death. He is now calling on the government to evacuate his brother’s widow and children, who are still living in fear in the Taliban-run country 18 months later.
The Home Office has now made contact with the brother after The Independent raised the case with officials. He has been assigned a caseworker at UK Visa and Immigration, and was told that his sister-in-law could apply for a visa through the family reunion pathway.
The brother has made an initial application and is waiting for guidance on how the family can be evacuated, but an MP who has been trying to help them says they have faced “nothing but obstacles at every turn”.
The victim was born in Afghanistan, but first fled the Taliban more than 20 years ago, moving to the UK and becoming a British citizen. He later returned to care for his sick father, got married to an Afghan woman, and had a family.
When the Taliban took over in August 2021, the man immediately sought help from the Foreign Office, but his brother says the family were informed that they would be unable to come back together. He said: “The Foreign Office told me: ‘Yes, we can remove him only, but his family – five children and wife – we cannot remove.’ My brother refused to leave them.”
In the following months, the family tried to get a visa to go to neighbouring Pakistan. In the week leading up to the father’s death, the family were hopeful that they might be able to flee Afghanistan soon.
“The family started packing their stuff to get ready to leave,” the brother continued. “We spoke on [the] Thursday, and then on [the] Friday at 3 o’clock we were informed that my brother had been injured in a roadside bomb.
“He had been travelling with his friends from mosque to home, and someone detonated a bomb. There were two people very badly injured, and my brother was the worst because he got hit in the head.”
He said he contacted Foreign Office minister Tariq Ahmad and local MP Munira Wilson for help.
“We were talking to people till 2am,” he said. “Then at 4am in the morning they told us he was brain dead.”
When asked if a lack of government action had played a part in his brother’s death, he replied: “Absolutely, absolutely. I’m glad that they brought thousands of Afghans here [during the initial evacuation], but why did they not bring the British? Why?”
While mourning their loss, the family tried to organise British passports for the children. With the help of Lib Dem MP Ms Wilson and her direct lobbying of ministers, this was achieved in September 2022 after nearly seven months.
The brother, with the support of his MP, has raised his family’s case with immigration minister Robert Jenrick as well as Lord Ahmad.
He says he was initially told the Foreign Office would not be able to help because “services at the British embassy in Kabul remain suspended”.
Then in April, Mr Jenrick sent a letter to Ms Wilson that alerted the family to the existence of the “private life” visa and recommended the Afghan mother apply for it. According to the government’s website, applicants have to be in the UK to apply for a private life visa.
Describing the struggles of his sister-in-law and her children in Afghanistan, the brother said: “They all sit at home, they cannot go outside without a male. The life for women is very difficult.