Family of Brit trying to evacuate 400 Afghans 'worried' by lack of contact after Taliban arrest

Ben Slater wants his staff to leave Afghanistan with him.

The cousin of a former British soldier who was arrested by the Taliban while trying to evacuate hundreds of Afghans from the country, has said he is “extremely worried" about him.

Ben Slater runs a chain of NGOs and is trying to get 400 people out of the country, but after failing to secure staff and their families seats on evacuation planes, Mr Slater tried to get them out of Afghanistan by crossing one of the country's land borders in a convoy of vehicles.

However, as he was attempting to do this, Mr Slater was arrested at the border by the Taliban and questioned about members of his staff, some of who are single women who were staying in hotel rooms without husbands as they waited to cross the border.

Mr Slater's cousin, Kris Potts, told ITV News the former member of the Royal Military Police had been released by the Taliban following Thursday's arrest, but contact with him was difficult and his whole family were concerned for his safety.

"I can only say that the family is extremely worried for his well being," Mr Potts told ITV News, adding he felt Mr Slater had been "let down massively” by the government.

“Being ex-military myself, ex-Royal Engineer, I am frustrated and embarrassed by our Foreign Office, our government, that he was abandoned the way he has.

“Communication with Ben is sparse, as you can imagine, I hope for his safe return.”

Taliban soldiers have been strict at the border and at airports. Credit: AP

After being released by the Taliban, Mr Slater was told that he could travel out of the country with one assistant – but that the rest of his staff must return to Kabul because they do not have visas.

But the former diplomatic bodyguard has remained in Afghanistan, seemingly determined to leave with his staff, and has called on the UK government to help.

Boris Johnson told MPs on Monday that just 311 Afghans eligible for resettlement in the UK remain in Afghanistan, but other estimates have put the figure at around 1,100.

Labour MP Chris Bryant said he'd contacted the government over 143 Afghans connected to his Rhondda constituency, who were stuck in the country after Western forces pulled out.

"Since I sent in those names, one of them has been shot, one has been raped and one has been tortured," Mr Bryant told MPs during a debate on the Afghanistan crisis.

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) is a scheme set up by the government which allows thousands of Afghans who worked with Britons, such as interpreters, to resettle in the UK.

Another scheme was set up to help vulnerable Afghans with no connection to the UK who want to escape the Taliban - the government said it would resettle 5,000 Afghans this year and a further 20,000 over the next five years.

The foreign office has been contacted for comment.