Ben Slater, 37, used to work as a bodyguard to British ambassadors abroad. Now, he’s charting a course through Taliban-controlled lands with 400 Afghan citizens – including staff from his organization, the Nomad Concepts Group – after the British Foreign Office failed to approve his visas for the air evacuation.
“It’s going to be a long trip, and I am hoping on the other end that the FCDO have got our visas sorted, or at least have spoken to the foreign affairs ministry in our destination country to allow access for our vulnerable staff,” Slater told The Telegraph.
Slater helped evacuate dozens of people from Afghanistan during Britain’s airlifts, and he said he feels “massively let down” by his government. Instead, he has taken matters into his own hands.
His staff of 50 individuals mainly consists of women. He revealed neither his convoy’s location nor its destination. The rest of the group consists of Afghan nationals who are eager to depart the country.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has not commented on Slater’s situation, saying the office does not comment on individual cases, according to the Daily Mail.
“Our staff are working tirelessly to facilitate the swift evacuation of British nationals, Afghan staff and others at risk,” the FCDO said in a statement. “The scale of the evacuation effort is huge and we have helped nearly 15,000 people leave Afghanistan since the evacuation began. We continue to put pressure on the Taliban to allow safe passage out of Afghanistan for those who want to leave.”
A number of countries, including the U.K. and Germany, have advised individuals who wish to leave the country that they can travel to a neighboring nation and seek assistance at an embassy there, since most countries have closed their embassies in Kabul after the Taliban assumed control of the city on Aug. 15.
The Taliban have made assurances that they will allow those fleeing their country to do so unharmed, but Slater is concerned that is not the case.
Slater said he has shared his escape plan with the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defense in hopes that U.K. forces will assist his efforts and repatriate them when they reach their destination.