UK announces plan to admit 20,000 Afghans fleeing Taliban regime

Boris Johnson opened a debate for a special session on Afghanistan in the UK parliament on Wednesday | File Photo

Britain on Wednesday laid out plans for the resettlement of up to 20,000 Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban regime. 

The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme will open with the relocation of 5,000 Afghans at risk due to the current crisis and has the capacity for a total of 20,000 refugees to be relocated over the coming years. 

Priority will be given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities deemed most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

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“I can announce today that we are committing to relocating another 5,000 Afghans this year, with a new and bespoke resettlement scheme focusing on the most vulnerable, particularly women and children, and we will keep this under review for future years, with the potential of accommodating up to 20,000 over the long-term,” Johnson told the House of Commons, as he opened a debate for a special session on Afghanistan in parliament. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel, the minister responsible for finalising the details of the scheme, earlier said that it would take some time for it to be fully operational and that the government is working at speed to address all obstacles. 

“The UK government will always stand by those in the world in their hour of need when fleeing persecution or oppression,” Patel said. 

“I want to ensure that as a nation we do everything possible to provide support to the most vulnerable fleeing Afghanistan so they can start a new life in safety in the UK, away from the tyranny and oppression they now face.

“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. The Afghan citizens resettlement scheme will save lives,” she said. 

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The new route is in addition to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, which offers current or former locally employed staff who are assessed to be under serious threat to life priority relocation to the UK. 

The Home Office said it is working with international partners to develop a system to identify those most at risk and resettle them. Johnson is expected to discuss this issue with G7 leaders at a virtual meeting in the coming days, as part of the UK’s G7 presidency. 

During the special parliament session, Johnson gave updates on the country’s evacuation of British nationals from the crisis-hit region and also the humanitarian aid being allocated for Afghanistan.

 “I can tell the House that we have so far secured the safe return of 306 UK nationals and 2,052 Afghan nationals as part of our resettlement programme, with a further 2,000 Afghan applications completed and many more being processed,” he said.

“We will also support the wider international community in delivering on humanitarian projects in the region by doubling the amount of humanitarian and development assistance that we had previously committed to Afghanistan this year, with new funding, taking this up to GBP 286 million with immediate effect.”