More than 100 guards at the British embassy in Kabul who had been told they were not eligible for UK government protection are to be evacuated from Afghanistan after all, a minister has said.
A source at their employer, GardaWorld, said however that expat staff were in the process of being evacuated, including some British employees, but that the situation had not changed for the Afghan guards.
Some of the guards, said they had not heard from their employer about any proposed evacuation.
The Guardian first reported on Thursday that most of the 125-strong security team had been given informal notice that they no longer had jobs guarding the embassy and were ineligible for protection because they were hired through an outsourced contractor.
After a backlash on Thursday, however, the armed forces minister, James Heappey, suggested they had brought to Kabul airport, where UK and US forces are overseeing an evacuation, on Friday morning.
“My understanding is that the GardaWorld convoy, which is the contractors you are referring to, arrived at Kabul airport and they are indeed in the process of being evacuated,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked why was their passage was ever in doubt, he replied: “I don’t know.”
Two guards contacted by the Guardian on Friday morning said they were still at home and had received no information from GardaWorld about an evacuation and no contact from British officials to suggest their applications for the relocation scheme were being reconsidered.
At least one guard was attempting to make his way to the airport independently but others were still at home, one of them said. “There are thousands of people at the airport. It’s impossible to get inside. We have heard nothing about an evacuation,” he said.
The guards, some of whom had been working for the UK embassy for more than a decade, described feeling abandoned by British officials and their employer. Many have been forced into hiding, fearing for their lives.
Among those who responded to the report that the guards were being refused protection was the shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, who tweeted on Thursday night: “Refusing sanctuary to those who protected us. Utterly reprehensible. This is not who we are.”
Heappey said in another interview on Friday that people at all levels in the UK government were “working their backsides off” to evacuate people after he was questioned about the response of the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to the Afghanistan crisis.
He told Sky News: “I don’t know the exact details of the Foreign Office ministers’ call sheets.
“What I can tell you, as the secretary of state [Ben Wallace] said yesterday, is I know that no one phone call would have been decisive in changing the trajectory, either for the collapse of the Afghan government or indeed the acceleration of the airlift.
“What I see is that from the prime minister to secretaries of state to my junior ministerial colleagues around government to senior civil servants, all the way down to the brave volunteer civil servants who have gone forward to Kabul … is people across Her Majesty’s government working their backsides off in order to get people out.”