Afghan refugee who fled Kabul after Taliban takeover gave birth in London hotel room without a doctor present as campaigners raise concerns over lack of medical care for evacuated families

  • Nurse Melanie Clark delivered the baby of an Afghan refugee in a London hotel
  • The veteran was volunteering for Ems4Afghans when mother went into labour
  • Ms Clark delivered a baby boy in a hotel room as an ambulance did not get there
  • Ms Clark said it raises questions about the care of the 8,000 Afghan refugees

An Afghan refugee who fled Kabul after the Taliban takeover was forced to give birth in a hotel room without a doctor present, as campaigners have raised concerns over the lack of medical care for evacuees.

Melanie Clark, an RAF veteran who works as a nurse, delivered the baby of an Afghan refugee when she arrived at a London hotel to hand out supplies because an ambulance did not arrive in time for the birth.

Ms Clark had been setting up a donations with fellow veteran Matt Simmons as part of Ems4Afghans, a community organisation from Emsworth, Hampshire, when her colleague told her that a pregnant woman was in pain.

She explained: ‘We went up to the room, I thought I would be maybe reassuring someone and making sure an ambulance was on its way.’

Campaigners have raised concerns about the medical care of refugees who fled Kabul, with aid charities claiming they are ‘living in limbo’ as they shed light on the ‘cold reality’ of the delays faced by many families evacuated to the UK.

Nurse Melanie Clark delivered the baby (both pictured) of an Afghan refugee when she arrived at a London hotel to hand out supplies because an ambulance did not arrive in time

Ms Clark, who works at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, said neither the expectant mother or her husband spoke much English, but another volunteer was able to translate.

Questions had to be relayed from the ambulance control room to Ms Clark and her colleague and then translated for the husband and wife, and vice versa. 

Questions and answers had to be relayed from the ambulance control room to Ms Clark and her colleague and then translated for the husband and wife, and back again.

At some point, Ms Clark said, it became clear that paramedics would not arrive in time and that she would be delivering the baby – for the first time in her life.

She explained: ‘I am a nurse but midwifery didn’t come in our nurse training. Before the baby arrived, before its head came out, it was scary.

‘It was scary and nerve-wracking about whether this was going to turn out OK.’

Without knowing the mother’s medical history, Ms Clark was conscious that there could be issues she was not aware of.

Thankfully, the baby boy – the mother’s sixth child – was born healthily, safety and swiftly, 20 minutes later and was wrapped up in hotel towels after the delivery.

Campaigners have raised concerns about the medical care of the refugees who fled Kabul. Pictured: Afghan refugees arrive at Heathrow Airport on August 26

Almost three months after the airlift, the Home Office said the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) is ‘not yet open’. Pictured: Afghan refugees at Heathrow on August 26

Ms Clark, who served in Iraq with the RAF, said it raises questions about the level of medical care available for refugees in the UK.

She said: ‘They are registered with a GP but the level of support they have had and the knowledge of their pregnancies is very, very limited.

‘I just thought, I am sure it will happen again.’

She said that more needs to be done to help the refugees who were evacuated from Afghanistan this summer after the Taliban seized control of the country following the withdrawal of US and UK troops. 

She continued: ‘We can’t just stand by… just bringing them into this country is not enough because they are traumatised and they need some kind of future… they need to know what’s happening next.

‘I went to Iraq. I have seen the difficulties people face and the effects of war on people.’ 

Volunteer groups have sprung up in the weeks since the huge evacuation effort, providing food and clothing to refugees while they wait for the system to find them a home.

Almost three months on from the airlift, the Home Office said the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) is ‘not yet open’ and that more information will be provided in due course.

Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding at the charity Refugee Action, said people brought to the UK during the Kabul airlift were ‘living in limbo’.

She added: ‘We’d like to offer our congratulations to the family. We hope they can build safe and happy lives in the UK.

‘But it’s appalling that three months after the evacuation of Kabul thousands of Afghan refugees are still living in limbo in hotels with no settled access to employment, healthcare or education.

Ms Clark said more needs to be done to help the 8,000 refugees who were evacuated from Afghanistan this summer. Pictured: An Afghan refugee arrives at Heathrow on August 26

Thousands of Afghans fled Kabul in August after the Taliban took control of the country. Pictured: UK and US military engage in the evacuation in Kabul as part of Operation Pitting

The UK has evacuated more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan since August 13. Pictured: Evacuees boarding a C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Kabul on August 18

‘Rather than the warm welcome people were promised, they’re seeing the cold reality of our refugee protection system.

‘Ministers must move quicker to get people out of hotels and integrated into our communities, where they can start to properly rebuild their lives.’

The UK has already evacuated more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan since August 13, including 8,000 Afghans who had worked with UK armed forces. 

But more than 7,000 Afghan refugees remain in hotel rooms and have not been given guidance about when their permanent homes will arrive, the Guardian reported.

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the publication that finding long-term accommodation for the evacuees should be possible.

Mr Solomon said half of the UK’s 343 local authorities could offer housing for 60 people, adding: ‘That’s just 12 homes each – that should be doable, shouldn’t it?’ 

Plans for the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) were announced in August shortly after Taliban forces took control of the country’s capital city Kabul. 

The scheme is set to prioritise those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and the rule of law.

It will also focus on evacuating vulnerable people, including women, girls and members of minority groups at risk.

But, almost three months on, the Home Office said the scheme is ‘not yet open’ and that more information will be provided in due course.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: ‘The situation in Afghanistan remains extremely dangerous with many people at risk of persecution.

Afghan citizens granted refuge by Britain disembark an RAF C-17 transport plane in Dubai on August 19, before boarding a civilian transport plane to take them to the UK


Volunteer groups including Ems4Afghans have sprung up since the huge evacuation effort, providing food and clothing to refugees while they wait for the system to find them a home

In this handout photo provided by the Ministry of Defence, UK military personnel climb onboard a A400M aircraft departing Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28

‘We are dismayed this government has still not formally opened the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, months after it committed to this vital lifeline for thousands in grave danger. 

‘The government needs to provide urgent clarification on when we can expect the scheme to open.’

Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding at Refugee Action, said: ‘It’s indefensible that ministers are still dawdling over the details of its Afghan resettlement scheme, three months after the fall of Kabul.’ 

In August, Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the plans for the scheme after the Government was accused of not moving quickly enough when it confirmed it would take up to 20,000 refugees, with as many as 5,000 in the first year.

At the time, Ms Patel insisted the Government was working ‘quickly’ but that it would ‘take time’ to get the scheme up and running and it would not be ‘straight forward’. 

It is understood the Government hopes to open the scheme by the end of the year. 

Thousands of Afghans fled Kabul in August after the Taliban – a hard-line Islamist group – took control of the country following the withdrawal of US and other Western forces in the war-torn country.

The UK evacuated many of those looking to flee the country on planes in the Kabul Airlift, that saw planes fly people out between August 15 and August 30. 

They left behind hundreds of citizens and Afghan allies desperate to flee the country in the hands of the Taliban.

The UK helped fly some 15,000 people to safety but stories emerged of interpreters who helped the armed forces over the last 20 years left stranded.

It is not known precisely how many people who were promised sanctuary in the UK were left behind.

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