Most of the 125-strong team of security personnel, employed by the global security firm GardaWorld, have been given informal notice that they no longer have jobs guarding the embassy, several said.
The guards, some of whom had been working for the UK embassy for over a decade, described feeling abandoned by British officials and their employer. Many have been forced into hiding, fearing for their lives.
Meanwhile, more than 100 guards doing the same work for the US embassy, under a separate GardaWorld contract, have been evacuated and others were receiving support from the US embassy, according to a senior Afghan national GardaWorld employee in charge of human resources.
On Saturday night, at the end of a long shift helping British diplomats get to Kabul airport so they could flee after the fall of the Afghan capital to the Taliban, several British embassy guards said they were told by phone that since the embassy was now closed their services would no longer be required. They were asked to hand back computers, body armour and radios.
Nearly all 160 GardaWorld employees working on the British embassy contract applied for help from the Ministry of Defence-run Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap), designed to assist people working for UK organisations, and all except 21 translators were rejected last month. They received letters explaining they were not eligible because they “were not directly employed by her majesty’s government”.
The GardaWorld team provided all the security for the British embassy in Afghanistan under its “British embassy Kabul project”, including offices, accommodation and off-site visits. Most of the guards are men, but about 10 are women, responsible among other things for frisking female visitors to the embassy. Security for all British embassies globally was outsourced decades ago.
A GardaWorld HR manager said he was asked to prepare termination letters for many of the Kabul embassy guards last week but the process was disrupted by the arrival of the Taliban.
The guards, four of whom gave detailed telephone interviews to the Guardian, are hoping the UK government will reconsider its decision to refuse their applications for Arap.
“We have been doing a very dangerous job for the British embassy, and we are in a terrible condition. We are known as British embassy staff; our lives are now at risk,” one guard said.
“We worked in frontline positions, doing the most dangerous work to keep British officials safe. We risked our lives for them, and now we find ourselves in this bad situation – not just us, but our families are at risk.”
The guards have written to the UK government asking to be included on the relocation list. “Contractors are human too; think of them as human,” they wrote, saying their jobs were “exposed and in the public eye” and they were sceptical about Taliban promises of an amnesty for people who worked for foreign organisations.