Hundreds of Afghans employed by G4S to guard the British embassy until last year fear they will be killed by the Taliban after being abandoned by the British, while their successors who were promised help last week have since only received redundancy notices.
Ahmad (not his real name), a former close protection officer and interpreter at the British embassy, made a desperate plea to the prime minister. “If I could get a message to Boris Johnson I would shout at him for help – if he doesn’t help us we will be killed,” he said by phone from Kabul.
Ahmad is now in hiding with his family – one of an estimated 300 G4S employees now doing the same – and is convinced they will be killed by the Taliban if they are found because of their work with the British.
The group applied for assistance and asylum under the UK government’s Afghan relocation and assistance policy (Arap), but they said they were rejected because they were not hired directly by the British government.
He said: “Last Tuesday, [the Taliban] came to my father’s house looking for me and my documents. I cannot eat, I cannot not sleep. I can’t talk to people because I’m scared. My family is in a very bad situation. My wife is crying. We are abandoned.”
Ahmad worked at the British embassy before G4S lost the contract in June 2020 to the global security company GardaWorld. By way of proof, he shared a photograph of himself on a British embassy delegation to Camp Arena in Herat on 15 November 2018.
Last week, the government said all 125 GardaWorld security staff would be granted the right to enter the UK after their plight was highlighted by the Guardian, but the staff have had no news or advice about how to leave Kabul since then.
The only communication they received on Sunday was a formal termination letter from GardaWorld, telling them their services were no longer required.
Written in Dari, the letter for dissemination to all staff working on the British embassy contract stated: “Dear GardaWorld colleagues, because Afghanistan is facing an uncertain future, recent events across the country mean that GardaWorld doesn’t have any choice but to suspend operations in Afghanistan immediately and indefinitely.”
The guards’ local supervisor said everyone had felt “upset and hopeless” when they read the letter, which was sent by the Dubai-based regional director for Afghanistan.
“We know of lots of people working for UK, US, Canadian funded projects. None of them did this to their personnel. Instead of helping us to get out of this situation while our lives are at great risk, they are sending this termination letter,” the guards’ supervisor said.
The letter stated that any further payments would depend on negotiations between the Foreign Office and GardaWorld.
The company’s remaining British staff were taken by helicopters from the company compound to Kabul airport on Friday, during an evacuation operation for all GardaWorld’s expatriate staff. None of the Afghan guards were included, the supervisor said.
Most guards have now fled their own homes because they no longer feel safe, he added. “We’ve packed small bags, and we’re waiting for news. We’ve asked to be transported to the airport. We hope they will do that, but we’re running out of time. Everyone is afraid.”
GardaWorld has been contacted for comment.
The prospects are even bleaker for the ex-G4S staff, most of whom were employed by the company until last week when the Taliban entered Kabul.
Mohammad, 41 – who was a senior watch keeper at the World Bank in Kabul until last week, and had also worked as a security guard at the British embassy – said the group was “desperate”.
He has asked G4S and the UK government for help on behalf of the group. “G4S said we should apply for asylum. They have done nothing for us but they should help.”
He added: “We have asked the British government many times about the asylum issue, but all the emails have been rejected.”
Mohammad has three sons and four daughters aged between one and 13. He said: “We are hiding at home, we cannot go outside. The Taliban are searching house by house in the capital now trying to find anyone who worked with foreign people. Absolutely they will kill me if they find me.”
He said if he had an email from the British government, he could get access to the airport and the chance of flight to safety.
He said he contacted the Guardian after reading about the government U-turn on GardaWorld staff. “They did nothing for GardaWorld until the complaint in the Guardian. If you publish details about our situation, it should push them to do something for us.”
The Guardian also spoke to Rashid, a security contractor who narrowly survived an attack on the G4S compound in 2018 and was close friends with a British victim of the bombing, Luke Griffin.
He said: “I left the G4S compound a few minutes before the attack. I was doing insurgency training for the UK. The Taliban will definitely find and kill G4S staff.”
He sent a photograph of his G4S security badge as proof of identification. Until Sunday 15 August, when the Taliban entered Kabul, Rashid was employed as a G4S fire marshal at the World Bank.
He said: “G4S paid our 75-day salary in advance from the day Kabul collapsed and nothing else. They told us they cannot do anything to protect us or evacuate us. We asked them to push the UK government to include us in the Arap scheme but they didn’t help.”
A G4S spokesperson said: “G4S used every measure available to assist Afghan national employees. We have made strong representations to the UK Foreign Office and provided all Afghan employees with certificates of employment and letters of recommendation to support their eligibility for the UK government’s Afghan relocation scheme.”
The Foreign Office has been contacted for comment.