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An Afghan pilot who has today been granted UK asylum after being threatened with deportation to Rwanda has thanked The Independent for its unwavering campaign to fight for his in Britain.

The hero air force lieutenant, who served alongside British forces, fled the Taliban in fear for his life due to his work with coalition forces and was forced to complete part of the arduous journey via Italy, Switzerland and France to the UK on a small boat across the English Channel.

He had been rejected from the UK’s Afghanistan resettlement scheme, but after months of this paper’s campaigning, with backing from top military brass and notable politicians, the Home Office has finally relented to the pilot .

The hero pilot fled the Taliban and was forced to come to the UK on a small boat

(The Independent)

He told The Independent: “I am really happy, completely happy. When they sent me the Rwanda letter I was in shock at how they could send me this kind of letter, but this morning I was equally shocked to see that they had granted me asylum. I couldn’t believe it.”

He continued: “I want to say thank you very much to every one of you who has supported me. “Thank you to The Independent, I really appreciate you, you worked very hard for me. I will not forget how you helped me.”

Military chiefs, politicians and celebrities backed our campaign and have since welcomed the decision but said the government still has more to do, with thousands of Afghans eligible for resettlement in the UK still stuck in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

(The Independent)

Here is how The Independent fought for the pilot’s over a campaign:

19 March 2023

The story started when The Independent reported how Afghans fleeing to the UK had been told to get their papers stamped by the Taliban.

(The Independent)

26 March 2023

We then tracked down an airman who was forced to take the treacherous journey to the UK across the English Channel in a small boat because there were no safe routes available to him. He hoped he would be welcomed with open arms due to his work with coalition forces but he was instead threatened with deportation to Rwanda.

(The Independent)

29 March 2023

Admiral Lord West, the former head of the navy, and former defence minister Tobias Ellwood demanded the pilot be allowed to stay – and the prime minister promised to investigate his case.

(The Independent)

30 March 2023

More senior military and political figures – including Rory Stewart, the former international development secretary; Sir Laurie Bristow, former ambassador to Afghanistan; General Sir Richard Barrons, former chief of joint operations who served in Afghanistan; and Sir William Patey, former ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, weighed in to back our campaign.

(The Independent)

31 March 2023

The Afghan pilot then wrote to the Rishi Sunak to plead his case to remain, as Sir Keir Starmer backed our call.

(The Independent)

1 April 2023

The former Nato chief, Lord Robertson, then added his support to our campaign, describing the deportation plan as an “indefensible disgrace”.

(The Independent)

2 April 2023

We have also highlighted the plight of other Afghans – including hundreds stranded in Pakistan after the UK government stopped military flights and demanded they pay for their own accommodation before being allowed to travel.

(The Independent)

We also had this comment piece from Bear Grylls, calling for better treatment of Afghans who fought alongside the British

9 April 2023

A poll for The Independent backed more support for Afghan veterans – as new figures showed that the vast majority of applications to the scheme set up to them were being rejected.

(The Independent)

10 April 2023

The former head of the British Army, Lord Dannatt, backed our campaign, saying the pilot must be treated as a “special case”.

(The Independent)

19 April 2023

Piers Morgan also backed our call – using his TalkTV programme – with Independent editor Geordie Greig and Lord Dannatt as guests – to demand . He also made his call on social media:

(X (formerly known as Twitter))

20 April 2023

Air Marshal Edward Stringer, a former commander of RAF forces in Afghanistan, also backed us, drawing powerfully on his own experience in the country.

We trained Afghan pilots to fight the Taliban – we can’t leave them to the mercy of the warlords

Ben McBean, a marine commando who lost an arm and a leg in Afghanistan, and was described as a hero by Prince Harry, also backed the campaign, saying we must help our pilot settle in the UK.

(The Independent)

23 April 2023

We won the backing of the Royal British Legion as its director general Charles Byrne urged the government to “promptly and fully assess those who are applying for support”.

(The Independent )

27 April 2023

Iraq war hero Colonel Tim Collins backed our campaign, saying “we owe a duty of loyalty to our allies”.

(The Independent)

1 May 2023

General Sir David Richards offered his backing, saying: “Those who fought together in Afghanistan, the Afghan, British and other coalition forces did so with unwavering courage, dedication and solidarity. They forged a fellowship in battle.”

(The Independent )

4 May 2023

Falklands war veteran Simon Weston warned no one will want to risk their lives to support British efforts abroad in future if an Afghan pilot is deported to Rwanda.

(The Indepedent)

13 May 2023

Film director Guy Ritchie backed the campaign – having just made a film about an Afghan interpreter abandoned by the US military

(The Independent)

14 May 2023

Following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s criticism of the Rwanda deportation policy, religious leaders from all major faiths in the UK backed our campaign:

(The Independent)

15 May 2023

Sting also backed the campaign, criticising the government’s lack of “decency”.

(The Independent)

16 May 2023

James Heappey, the defence minister, was asked about our pilot in the Commons. He admitted that men like him acted heroically, but failed to intervene to him refuge. We asked:

(The Independent)

22 May 2023

We launched a petition calling on the UK to refuge to Afghans who served alongside British forces, which has currently had 50,000 signatures.

(The Independent)

29 May 2023

The White House made an extraordinary intervention in the case of the Afghan pilot by pledging to look into his case as the UK government continued to stall.

Spokesperson John Kirby, who is the strategic communications coordinator for the US National Security Council, promised to investigate whether the man would be eligible for asylum in the US.

(The Independent)

5 June 2023

The Independent found that Afghans who worked for the British army are being denied sanctuary in the UK despite being at risk of execution by the Taliban.

They include mechanics, labourers and chefs who have been rejected by the Ministry of Defence’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy scheme and now live in fear for their lives.

(The Independent)

18 June 2023

Threatened with deportation to Rwanda, the Afghan pilot said he felt “abandoned” after his UK resettlement was rejected despite his work with the British forces.

“I am really disappointed,” he told The Independent. “We weren’t carrying out simple tasks in Afghanistan – we were doing your missions. Without our Afghan forces, the UK and US wouldn’t have been able to do their activities.”

(The Independent)

2 August 2023

The wife of the Afghan pilot made an emotional plea to Rishi Sunak to give her family sanctuary in the UK.

The woman, who is hiding in Afghanistan, said her family is paying a “heavy price” for her husband’s work with the British armed forces.

(The Independent )

5 August 2023

The government began a “shameful” eviction of thousands of Afghan refugees from hotels across the country, with one in five presenting as homeless to their local council.

Many of those evicted had been evacuated during the fall of Kabul because of their heroic efforts with the British army.

(The Independent )

13 August 2023

With the government’s deadline for giving sanctuary to Afghans approaching, thousands remained in limbo across the UK.

The failure flies in the face of the government’s pledge to “shift heaven and earth” to relocate people out of Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.

(The Independent )

15 August 2023

Rishi Sunak’s government was accused of “apathy” in ignoring the plight of Afghan refugees as it was claimed there were “no plans” to rescue those left behind in Kabul.

MPs and military chiefs had urged the PM to help refugees who had worked alongside the British armed forces and were now fearing for their lives.

(The Independent )

23 August 2023

But in a dramatic turn of events, the Home Office now accepts that he has a “well-founded fear of persecution and therefore cannot return to your country of origin” and grants his asylum claim.

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