DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he is seeking urgent clarification from the UK Government about people from Northern Ireland who remain in Afghanistan.
The UK has entered the final stages of its Kabul evacuation and no more people will be called to the airport to leave, the Ministry of Defence has said.
But Sir Jeffrey expressed concerns over British citizens who have not yet been evacuated. He also said he would be raising cases of Irish citizens from Northern Ireland who are believed still to be in the country with the Taoiseach Micheal Martin.
He told the BBC: “Whilst I understand absolutely the need to protect our armed forces and the civilian staff who are working at Kabul Airport, I am concerned that perhaps there remain British citizens who haven’t yet been transported, evacuated out of Kabul.
“I am seeking clarity on that from the Foreign Office and the Home Office today. That includes some Northern Ireland citizens whose cases I have been dealing with. I hope that by now they are in the airport compound and will be transported home but those are matters that we need to clarify.
“Obviously our thoughts are with the people working at Kabul Airport last night. It was absolutely devastating and clearly there has been a reaction to that; the UK Government is anxious to safeguard its people.
“Equally there will be Afghans who supported our armed forces during the war in Afghanistan who have not made it into the airport. Some cases I am aware of, with people in hiding who have been waiting on word to go to the airport and may now be left behind.
“I just can’t begin to contemplate what that will mean to those people now that they face the very high risk of persecution and indeed execution by the Taliban.”
When asked if he understood that there were still people from Northern Ireland in Afghanistan, Sir Jeffrey said: “That is correct. I just hope that a way can be found to help those people be evacuated.
“Some of them work for NGOs, for charities, doing humanitarian work. I just don’t know what attitude the Taliban will take to such organisations now and therefore our thoughts are with the families here at home who are so anxious and distressed about what they are seeing on their TV screens and deeply worried about their loved ones.
“I did send a message to the Prime Minister last night saying that I hope the UK Government would complete the evacuation of our UK citizens, including those from Northern Ireland who remain in Kabul and I want to get clarification today whether in fact we are leaving citizens behind and what that means and will we continue our efforts to secure their evacuation from Afghanistan by whatever means that is necessary.”
Sir Jeffrey is due to hold a meeting with the Taoiseach on Friday. He said he would be seeking more information about Irish citizens from Northern Ireland in Afghanistan.
He said: “I am aware of cases that fit that category and they remain in Afghanistan at this moment of time, including aid workers who work for an Irish aid agency, some of whom come from Northern Ireland.
“My understanding is that they have not yet been evacuated but I am seeking clarification on that and I will be raising this with the Irish Prime Minister today and giving him specific details of those cases.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of protecting people in life-threatening situations and we are determined to help as many Afghans as possible through the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme.
“We will welcome 5,000 Afghans in year one, with an ambition of resettling up to 20,000 in the long term if needed.
“The Government is also helping those who supported British soldiers and their families with the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy which is incredibly generous scheme and has been significantly expanded. It is expected to help 5,000 Afghans relocate this year.”