The Home Office has blamed a “technical glitch” after callers to an emergency Afghanistan helpline were redirected to a washing machine repair company in Coventry.
Priti Patel’s department was inundated with complaints after people were left on hold for hours or unable to get through at all, The National has reported.
The Home Office acknowledged that some calls had mistakenly been redirected to the West Midlands business but insisted the “technical glitch” had been resolved “swiftly”.
The service was launched last week as the Taliban swept to power following the withdrawal of western forces – sparking fears of brutal reprisals for anyone not considered to be sympathetic to the new regime.
Yesterday a new UK Government helpline for non-British nationals in Afghanistan went live to provide assistance to vulnerable people in the country ⤵️— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) August 21, 2021
More details: https://t.co/8qSXlof24M pic.twitter.com/27Xj5lU1xi
But the Home Office urged anxious callers not to dial in repeatedly to “chase” officials for information, claiming that was the reason for some delays.
A Government spokesperson said: “The new Afghanistan Helpline is up and running and dedicated Home Office civil servants have taken the details of more than 20,000 people.
“We would urge people to not call the line to chase for updates as this is causing further delays.”
The Home Office insisted over the weekend that the helpline would be open 24-hours a day as of Monday, having initially been open from 9.30am to 11pm UK time. But many callers complained on social media on Monday that the lines were still shut after 11pm.