‘It’s a joke’: left-behind Afghans despair at dog rescue revelations

Afghans who worked for the British but were not able to get on flights out of Kabul said the revelation that Boris Johnson appears to have personally approved the evacuation of animals last August added to their pain and despair.

“People have died in Afghanistan, because of their connections to the UK, but the prime minister was just allowing animals to get out of there,” said Asif*, a senior adviser to British aid projects for several years. “It is like a joke. I see now that animals have a higher value than us.”

His pregnant wife was shot by Taliban gunmen who raided their home in autumn 2021. She died in hospital days later from her injuries.

Despite years of service, and support from his former employer, he was told he was ineligible for refuge in the UK because he was a contractor rather than a direct employee.

He has fled Afghanistan and is now living in a mosque in a neighbouring country, but the Taliban threatened his brother, demanding that he reveal where Asif was hiding.

“We are human beings living here like animals, while they are rescuing animals from Afghanistan. It’s very painful,” Asif said.

Abdullah*, a British embassy security guard who worked for GardaWorld in a management role, said he remembered waiting at the airport gate beside vans full of dogs.

“They got clearance, and we didn’t. We were there at the same day, waiting at the same gate,” he said.

“We’ve talked about it a lot – all the guards were very angry – they gave priority to dogs over guards who had spent years serving the British government. Our buses were full of women and children – none of us got through. It was such a bad day for us.”

About 180 colleagues had been told they would make one of the last evacuation flights, but their departure was halted when Islamic State bombed an airport entrance.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) made a clear commitment that all GardaWorld staff would be allowed to travel to the UK, but this has not happened.

“We’re still here waiting. Since the embassy closed, we don’t have jobs, we don’t have money to buy food. It’s been minus 15 in Kabul, and some of us don’t have money to buy a kilo of wood to heat our homes,” Abdullah said.

“We’ve been told that GardaWorld staff will be eligible for evacuation under a new scheme, but we’re still waiting. We really hope that the British government will prioritise us now.”

Asif and Abdullah’s stories formed part of the Guardian’s Afghanistan: the left behind project.

The series featured the stories of those who were trapped, in Afghanistan or in limbo as they searched for safe haven, fearing for their lives from Taliban attacks or through hunger because they could not work.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity