THE UK Government has been told to “get its act together” after a special helpline set up to help victims of the crisis in Afghanistan was found to be faulty.

Those who phoned complained that they faced waits of several hours or were unable to get through at all. At least one caller said that instead of speaking to government officials, they were redirected to a washing machine repair company in Coventry.

The helpline, which was launched by the Home Office last week, is for “vulnerable” non-British nationals in Afghanistan.

Priti Patel’s department announced on Saturday that the service would be operating 24 hours a day from Monday.

However, callers complained last night that the phoneline was shut down by 11pm.

Today, those who dialed in again had problems speaking to an operator, with people facing waits of several hours or being told that the number was "unobtainable".

READ MORE: Home Office blames 'technical glitch' as Afghan calls sent to washing machine firm

SNP MP Chris Law – who has already written to the UK Government to demand improved support for those affected by the Afghan crisis – told The National about an ordeal faced by his constituent after they phoned from Scotland on behalf of their family in Afghanistan.

The Dundee West MP said: “The Home Office has advertised this helpline for around a week now as being a vital point of contact for those who have family trapped in the country.

“When my constituent attempted to phone the Home Office using the supplied number this morning, he was instead directed to an answering machine for a washing machine repair company in Coventry. On another try, the line was dead.”

READ MORE: Michael Russell: The lesson from Afghanistan for an independent Scotland

He added: "It appears the line is up and running now but I dread to think how many people may have been unable to reach the Home Office due to this fault. Sadly, many have nowhere else to turn for help and support. The Home Office must ensure this doesn't happen again and that people can get through quickly.

“This is yet more evidence of the lack of planning and preparedness at the very core of the UK Government’s disastrous response to this crisis. They must get their act together – thousands of vulnerable people are depending on it.”

Many callers took to social media to report faults with the emergency helpline.

BBC reporter Suhrab Sirat raised concerns about people being charged for the service.

Responding to the Home Office on Sunday, he tweeted: “Many in Afghanistan who are eligible can't afford the airtime cost. [A] few told me they called the number and waited for hours until they ran out of phone credit. Banks are shut and it's not easy to find phone credit. There isn’t even enough electricity to charge phones.”

Journalist Katharine Quarmby added: “Just heard from an academic who is trying to get through on behalf of Afghan academics and journalists. The line isn’t being answered. Outrageous at a time like this. The Government says it is working – but taking the [weekend] off.”

Law is expected to write another letter to the UK Government demanding action over the faulty helpline.

The UK Government commented: “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.”

It added that wait times had been cut to as little as 15 minutes and that “customers” will pay a local call rate, with the rest of the charges covered by the Home Office.

The Home Office says callers were redirected to the washing machine company as the result of a technical "glitch".

It comes as US president Joe Biden rejected calls to extend the rescue operation in Kabul, with thousands of people fearful that they could be subjected to brutal reprisals under Taliban rule if they are unable to flee.

Washington confirmed it will withdraw troops from the Afghan capital on August 31, as per its understanding with the Taliban.