British NGO Chief Arrested Then Freed by Taliban in Bid to Evacuate Afghan Staff
18:39 GMT 02.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
Ben Slater revealed plans earlier this week to take some 400 Afghan citizens, including single women unaccompanied by male relatives, out of the country by road into another country he declined to name. He claimed the British government had abandoned them in Kabul.
The Taliban* has released a British head of several charities in Afghanistan after he tried to drive a coach-load of his staff out of the country.
Former Army Military Policeman Ben Slater told The Daily Telegraph he was detained for several hours on Thursday morning after reaching the border the day before.
He said Taliban authorities questioned him as to why single women among his group were staying in hotels without male relatives accompanying them. On release, he was allowed to cross, but with only one other person.
“The final blow to the op is that the UK are only granting myself and one of my executive assistants over the border today, and they haven’t even suggested they are going to issue the visas for some or the rest of my group”, Slater said. “It’s a complete disaster really. It’s disgusting. It’s beyond horrible”.
2 September 2021, 09:30 GMT
Slater did not reveal which border he attempted to cross. But Afghanistan’s neighbours have in recent days closed their frontiers to would-be asylum-seekers — including Commonwealth member Pakistan, which is currently hosting 3.5 million refugees from the 20-year war.
Slater told The Telegraph on Monday that he was attempting to take some 400 Afghan citizens, including 50 staff from his Nomad Concepts Group of NGOs, from Kabul to an unnamed third country. He claimed the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office had denied them visas during last week's chaotic evacuation from the Afghan capital, saying he felt "massively let down".
The US decision last month to hastily evacuate its Kabul embassy after the Taliban swiftly regained control of the country prompted a panicked evacuation of over 100,000 foreign nationals and Afghan collaborators with the 20-year occupation. A series of tragic incidents culminating in last Thursday's suicide bombing at the capital's airport left some 200 civilians, 28 Taliban soldiers, and 13 US servicemen and women dead.
Slater's case echoes that of Paul "Pen" Farthing, who tried to bully Ministry of Defence officials into letting him take a planeload cats and dogs from his Nowzad animal refuge in Kabul out of the overcrowded airport on a private charter flight. Farthing's flight landed at London Heathrow Airport on Sunday with over 150 pets on board — but none of the vets and nurses who worked for him.
"More than 15,000 people including British nationals, our Afghan staff and others at risk have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the UK since 15 August in one of the biggest operations of its kind in history", an FCDO spokesman said.
"We will continue to do all we can to deliver on our obligation to get British nationals and eligible Afghans out of the country while the security situation allows".
*The Taliban is banned as a terrorist organisation in a number of countries, including Russia.