LONDON: An Afghan teacher has been told by a UK government department that his personal details were passed to a member of the public in Afghanistan “in error.”
The man, who has worked abroad, has been in hiding in Afghanistan with his wife and two children since the Taliban takeover in August last year.
The data breach has been acknowledged by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and is the first known leak under the government’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which prioritizes those who have assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan and vulnerable people, including members of minority groups.
Those wishing to apply for transfer to the UK through the scheme must complete an “expression of interest” form. The family’s personal details from this form were leaked to another Afghan citizen, putting them at risk of being found by the Taliban.
The ACRS team alerted the man to the leak, saying: “In accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation, I am writing to inform you that some of your personal data has, in error, been forwarded on to another member of the public who had submitted an expression of interest for the ACRS … which contained personal data, including your name and background details.
“We have reviewed our processes in light of this event and taken steps to avoid it happening again.”
The man said: “What is really upsetting and unsettling is the fact that instead of being the source of comfort and sanctuary, the British government has regrettably become the source of unimaginable pain and danger for us. These errors could be lethal.
“I am so frustrated with the blunders and non-responsiveness from the government during such a difficult year. Now I am lost for words that this has happened. I am more exposed and at risk of being misidentified as a British spy, because I worked abroad for so long. We are extremely shocked … It is so distressing for us all.”
The FCDO and the UK Home Office have joint responsibility for processing ACRS applications.
The government says it aims to resettle more than 5,000 people through the scheme in the first year, once the window for expression of interest forms closes on August 15.
Anyone resettled through the scheme will receive indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and under existing rules be able to apply for British citizenship after five years.
The ACRS runs separately to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, which offers relocation to those who worked directly for the British government, including interpreters and security guards.