A MINISTRY of Defence worker has been suspended after the details of hundreds of vulnerable Afghans were leaked in a major data breach.

More than 250 people seeking relocation to the UK – many of whom are in hiding – were mistakenly copied into an email from the MoD asking for an update on their situation.

Some of the email addresses had photos attached, according to reports. Those affected had applied to the Afghan Relocations Assistance Policy scheme as they tried to escape the Taliban.

Defence Minister Ben Wallace apologised for the data breach as he answered an urgent question in the Commons.

He confirmed people affected have been advised to delete their email and change their addresses.

He said: "I apologise to those Afghans affected by this data breach and with Home Office we are now working with them to provide security advice.

"As I speak, the mister for the armed forces is in the region speaking to neighbouring countries to see what more we can do with both third countries and in-country applicants.

"It is an unacceptable level of service that has let down the thousands of members of the armed forces and veterans. On behalf of the Ministry of Defence, I apologise.

"I offer the reassurances that the scheme will continue to operate and bring people back to the United Kingdom for however many are eligible and however long it takes."

The Defence Secretary said he was angry when he heard about the data breach and that one MoD staff member had been "suspended pending investigation".

The National: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace apologised in the CommonsDefence Secretary Ben Wallace apologised in the Commons

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He continued: "It was brought to my attention at 2000 hours last night there had been a significant data breach. To say I was angered by this was an understatement and I immediately directed investigations take place.

"Initial findings show that an email was sent at 1744 hours as part of a weekly contact we maintain with Arap currently remaining in Afghanistan. This was copied to all applicants rather than blind copying them.

"The email was immediately recalled on identification of the breach and then a subsequent email was sent advising people to delete their email and change their addresses, many of whom have done.

"So far, one individual has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation and processes for data handling and correspondence processing have already been changed.

"I have directed extensive steps are taken to quantify the potential increased risk to individuals in order to take further steps to protect them."

According to reports, some of those whose information has been released are in hiding from the Taliban after the militants took control of the battle-torn country last month.

Tory MP Johnny Mercer, a former defence minister, said the treatment of Afghan interpreters had been "deeply shameful".

He added his concerns about the Arap programme were considered to be a reaction to "significant misreporting" after he and others in defence wrote to the Defence Secretary and the Home Secretary.

"Their hubris will cost lives; this latest episode will only accelerate that. Deeply shameful," he said.