The UK is planning to give sanctuary to about 5,000 at-risk Afghan citizens by next year and up to 20,000 long-term, the government has announced.
Western countries are currently scrambling to evacuate their citizens and their Afghan allies from Afghanistan, and preparing for an incoming refugee crisis as the future of the country is unclear with the Taliban in control.
The terrorist group’s promises of establishing an inclusive government and freedom for women under Shariah law have been met with deep skepticism amid numerous reports of killing and threatening of dissidents, and demanding of forced marriages of women and girls.
The UK on Wednesday announced a new Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme to resettle at-risk Afghans in the UK.
Those who are most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban, including women, girls, and religious and other minorities, will be prioritised, the government said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK “owe[s] a debt of gratitude” to Afghans who worked with the UK over the last 20 years and he’s “proud” that Britain can help those who are “in urgent need of our help.”
Around 5,000 Afghan nationals are expected to be resettled into the UK in the first year under the new scheme, which will be kept under review for future years.
The government said the total number will be up to 20,000.
The Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, which the new Afghan scheme is modelled after, has resettled 20,000 Syrian refugees over a seven-year period from 2014 to 2021, the government said.
The new scheme is separate from and in addition to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which was announced in December last year and launched on April 1. The ARAP is designed to relocate the UK’s current and former Afghan employees, such as embassy support staff, those in political or counter-terrorism roles, or cultural advisers and their families.
The government added that the UK has also provided thousands of Afghans asylum in the UK and many Afghan nationals have come to work and study under the points-based immigration system.
The government promised that the new scheme won’t compromise Britain’s national security as applicants will “have to pass the same strict security checks as those resettled through other schemes.”
Johnson added the government will also focus its effort in stabilising Afghanistan.
“The best solution for everyone is an Afghanistan that works for all Afghans,” he said.
“That means the international community coming together to set firm, political conditions for the country’s future governance. And it means focusing our efforts on increasing the resilience of the wider region to prevent a humanitarian emergency.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to her counterparts from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the upcoming refugee crisis.