The United Kingdom reaches out to Afghans and is to take 20,000 Afghan refugees under the resettlement scheme.
The UK on Tuesday declared a resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban after the collapse of the Kabul government, giving an opening 5,000 places in the first year, rising to up to 20,000 later on.
The decision came on the threshold of an important session of parliament. At this time, around 900 British troops have been sent back to the Afghan capital to help repatriate thousands of UK nationals, including embassy staff, following the Taliban’s recapture of Afghanistan.
London said priority would be given to those most at risk, including Afghan women, children, and others forced to flee or facing threats and persecution from the hardliners, allowing them to remain in Britain indefinitely.
“This resettlement scheme will be kept under further review for future years, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long term,” the Home Office said in a statement.
The scheme is modeled on that which resettled 20,000 refugees from the Syria conflict from 2014 to this year.
Since Saturday, the eve of the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, 520 British nationals, diplomats and former Afghan staff have left Afghanistan on military flights, the Home Office said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants an urgent meeting with G7 leaders to stop Afghanistan from spiralling into a humanitarian disaster, calling for a “unified approach”, and ramped-up aid funding.
Of note, Britain was one of the United States strongest allies in President George W. Bush’s “war on terror”, launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
In the southern Afghan province of Helmand, Britain had 9,500 personnel and 137 bases alone. And its involvement came at a cost, with more than 450 troops killed.
Senior politicians and military top brass have condemned the peace deal brokered by US former president Donald Trump that led to the withdrawal of US-led forces and gave the Taliban the chance to return so easily and unopposed.
The government said it was working with foreign allies, including in the “Five Eyes” intelligence partnership with the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to identify those most at risk, even as Taliban leaders promised an amnesty and vowed not to take revenge.
Boris Johnson also said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last 20 years,” he said.
“Many of them, particularly women, are now in urgent need of our help.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose family fled to Britain from Idi Amin’s Uganda, said the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme “will save lives”.
“Our country has a proud history of offering sanctuary to those in need. We will not abandon people who have been forced to flee their homes and are now living in terror of what might come next,” she said.
However, Britain has also been criticized for cutting its foreign aid budget and tightening immigration rules after its departure from the European Union, including for migrants — many of them from conflict hot spots — crossing the Channel from France.
The UK is also facing pressure to do more to help resettle Afghan interpreters who helped the military after the Taliban was deposed in late 2001.
The Taliban’s recapture of Afghanistan has left many Indians very anxious over the safety of their loved ones stuck in Kabul and other parts of the country. A group of Sikhs have taken shelter at a Kabul gurudwara and appealed for evacuation.
Fear and panic is escalating all over the country due to the fear of what the Taliban could do to them in the coming days.