LONDON: The UK cannot accept all Afghans who helped British forces during the country’s two-decade-long war, Defense Minister James Heappey said as states across Europe accept a wave of refugees in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
In Parliament, he said it is “not possible” for everyone considered at risk to be granted assistance under Britain’s new Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.
His comments were delivered in response to MP Clive Efford, who said he knows of people who have “assisted our operations in Afghanistan” and who are eligible for the scheme, but had been denied.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this month amid Kabul evacuation efforts that the UK would help “Afghan friends of this country who guided, translated and served with our soldiers and officials, proving their courage and loyalty beyond doubt, sometimes in the heat of battle.”
But Heappey, on behalf of the government, said: “I know that’s a disappointment to many MPs who are working hard to support people who are in Afghanistan, and who they consider to be at risk. But it’s not possible for us to bring out everybody who has had a connection with the UK armed forces under the ARAP scheme. That’s why the terms were sent out as tightly as they were.”
He added that about 15,000 people, including UK service members and British and Afghan nationals, had been transported to the UK following the evacuation of Kabul.
But hundreds of Afghans formally accepted under ARAP who were not airlifted out have been told they can travel to the UK through other means.
The British government said it will allow 20,000 Afghan refugees to “start a new life in safety” in the UK. That figure is in addition to the Afghans evacuated under ARAP.
Heappey said: “It’ll take some time for the dust to settle on exactly who’s out and who we’ve yet to bring out, but we’re still working very hard to do so. The security situation is dynamic, our partnerships in the region are being developed, but we have every confidence that we’ll be able to help those that need help.”