EMAILS about desperate Afghans seeking rescue from the Taliban were flagged as read so that Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab could say there were no unread messages, a whistleblower says.

Raphael Marshall worked as a desk officer for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) during the scrambled evacuation effort this summer.

He says no-one on the Afghan Special Cases team – which handled requests for rescue from at-risk soldiers, MPs, judges, aid workers, guards and others who had worked for the UK Government through subcontractors – had “studied Afghanistan, worked on Afghanistan previously or had a detailed knowledge” of the country.

For one afternoon in the middle of the frantic evacuation, he was the only person monitoring the inbox and working through messages, he claims.

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Much of this mail “documented numerous recent grave human rights abuses by the Taliban”, including murder and rape, and was in “striking” contest with government lines about a changed Taliban. All senders received a message telling them their request for help had been “logged” but this was “usually false”, Marshall states.

And he says work between the FCDO and Ministry of Defence was so chaotic that senior MoD figures “planned to ask for the cancellation” of the entire Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) category used for these applications.

Between 75,000 and 150,000 people made such bids, Marshall says, but “fewer than 5% of these people have received any assistance” and “it is clear that some of those left behind have since been murdered by the Taliban”.

Marshall’s evidence was revealed yesterday in a report by the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC). In written testimony, he told the committee: “Many of these emails were not read. Between Saturday, August 21 and Wednesday, August 25, there were usually over 5000 unread emails in the inbox at any given moment, including many unread emails dating from early in August.

“These emails were desperate and urgent. I was struck by many titles including phrases such as ‘please save my children’.”

He told the committee he “loves” the Foreign Office and worked there for three years. But he believes the handling of the response was in breach of the civil servant’s code and an inquiry should be carried out.

“Hundreds if not thousands” of messages from MPs – many on behalf of fearful constituents – were not read until the operation ended and the criteria for selecting the lucky few for a flight out of Kabul was not clearly defined, he claims.

An email in Marshall’s name was sent to FAC chair Tom Tugendhat MP, who had served in Afghanistan, assuring him that the 10 cases he’d sent were being processed. Marshall says that was a lie and the note to Tugendhat was “written by committee”. Details of Tugendhat’s interpreter, whose case was higlighted in parliament, could not be found and “must have been lost somewhere in the FCDO system”.

Junior officials were “scared by being asked to make hundreds of life and death decisions about which they knew nothing”, it is claimed, and when then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab was asked to approve exceptional case for evacuation, he waited hours to reply then wanted the information compiled into a “well-presented table” before he’d make a decision. That, Marshall says, “suggests he did not fully understand the situation”.

A large number of emails were read but their details were not recorded and: “We never returned to these emails due to lack of time. They were therefore de facto eliminated from the evacuation process.”

For one week, “emails were processed by marking them with a flag once read but were not entered into a spreadsheet”, something Marshall says was done “to allow the Prime Minister and the then foreign secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails”.

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And when soldiers were drafted in to help, they had a single computer between eight, and some were “likely” using the software for the first time, contributing to errors.

Former UK ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow and senior FCDO officials appeared yesterday before the FCDO to answer to the claims. Tugendhat said: “These allegations are serious and go to the heart of the failures of leadership around the Afghan disaster, which we have seen throughout this inquiry.

"These failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort. The evidence we’ve heard alleges dysfunction within the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and substantial failings throughout the Afghanistan evacuation effort.

“The evacuation has been described as a success by some, but these allegations point to a very different story – one of lack of interest, and bureaucracy over humanity. It proved to be a true test of the leadership and effectiveness of the Foreign Office, with the lives of many of our friends and allies in the balance. This evidence raises serious questions about the leadership of the Foreign Office, and I look forward to putting these to officials.”

The FCDO did not respond when approached for comment.