The UK to welcome 20,000 Afghans vulnerable to Taliban takeover

By Rek Hanibal Published on August 18, 2021
The UK to welcome 20,000 Afghans vulnerable to Taliban takeover

The new scheme will see up to 20,000 Afghans offered a route to set up homes in the UK in the coming years. In the first year, 5,000 refugees will be eligible - with women, girls and others in need having priority.

In the Daily Telegraph, home Secretary Priti Patel urged other countries to help,  "we cannot do this alone".However, opposition parties have criticised the settlement scheme for not going far enough. The new plan is on top of the existing scheme for interpreters and other staff who worked for the UK.

Some 5,000 Afghans and family members are expected to benefit from that policy. Parliament has been recalled, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to open a debate in the House of Commons about the situation in Afghanistan from 09:30 BST on Wednesday.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson spoke to US President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening about the evacuation of Kabul. The leaders "resolved to continue working closely together on this in the days and weeks ahead to allow as many people as possible to leave the country", a spokesperson said.

"The prime minister stressed the importance of not losing the gains made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, of protecting ourselves against any emerging threat from terrorism, and of continuing to support the people of Afghanistan."Ministers have been rushing to put this scheme together in response to the situation in Afghanistan, with the final details signed off on Tuesday.

The scheme will prioritise those most in need - with the government highlighting women and girls and minority groups. Information on how to apply is expected soon. The scheme is loosely based on the one introduced during the Syrian war, which saw 20,000 moves to the UK from 2014 to 2021.

But ministers acknowledge the practicalities of getting people out of Afghanistan will be considerably more complicated because of the extent of Taliban control. Government insiders don't know the extent to which the new regime will allow people to flee if they so choose.

There will be funding for the resettlement programme - and the government will work with local councils and devolved governments on where to house Afghans who come to the UK. Announcing the new Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme, Mr Johnson said: "We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last twenty years.

"Many of them, particularly women, are now in urgent need of our help. I am proud that the UK has been able to put in place this route to help them and their families live safely in the UK."

Ms Patel wrote in the Telegraph that she wanted to ensure the UK was doing "everything possible to provide support to the most vulnerable fleeing Afghanistan so they can start a new life in safety in the UK".She added: "The UK is also doing all it can to encourage other countries to help.

Not only do we want to lead by example, but we also cannot do this alone." The government emphasised the new scheme would "not compromise on national security" and has promised all those arriving will have to pass "strict security checks".

Rek Hanibal

Rek Hanibal

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