The British Embassy in Kabul has blocked the visas of 35 Afghan students who were offered scholarships to study in the UK as the Taliban sweeps across their nation.

The Afghans had been selected among thousands of applicants for the prestigious Chevening scholarship, a UK grant which offers students from across the world the chance to study at UK universitie. But, after a year-long application process, the students were told that the UK Foreign Office had decided with ‘deep regret’ to pause this year’s Chevening scholarship in Afghanistan.

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The embassy letter, which was shared by former UK politician Rory Stewart on Twitter, read: ‘Current circumstances mean that the British embassy in Kabul is unable to administer the parts of the programme that must be done in Kabul in time for candidates to begin their course this year.’

The letter added: ‘The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is proud of the role Chevening has played and will continue to play in offering Afghan scholars the opportunity to study in the UK and we remain committed to reinstating the programme as soon as possible.

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‘We would therefore like to offer you a deferral until the academic year 2022-2023.’

Sharif Safi, who was planning on studying a Masters in peace, conflict and diplomacy at London Metropolitan University, told Sky News: ‘I’m still in shock. I’m devastated after the news. All my dreams have vanished.’

The student, who completed a five-hour-long English exam in Kabul while suffering from Covid-19 for the scholarship, told Sky News that he and the 34 other students like him had already made plans to study in the UK this year.

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He said: ‘Personally in my case I handed over my job and all my responsibilities in my organisation to someone else.

‘I declined a job offer in an important diplomatic mission and I rejected several other educational opportunities just because I opted for Chevening over any other opportunities.’

It comes as the Taliban continues to take control of large swaths of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops after 20 years of military operations.

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