LONDON: The UK has announced its Afghan resettlement scheme will start in January, months after it secured the recovery of thousands of at-risk Afghans during the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
It is expected to provide support for up to 20,000 Afghans, with the program prioritizing women, children, and those considered at high risk from Taliban retribution.
Activists for women’s rights, freedom of speech and the rule of law are anticipated to be prioritized by the government’s support.
The government said the Afghans it had already evacuated would be the first to be resettled throughout Britain under the scheme. They will be granted indefinite leave to remain, an immigration status that affords them the right to work and study without risk of deportation.
Despite details provided in recent announcements, charities working with refugees have asked the government to clarify how the scheme will operate.
Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding at Refugee Action, told The Guardian: “It’s vital for the thousands of Afghans stuck in hotels in the UK and the thousands more in fear of their lives in and around Afghanistan that the resettlement program starts immediately and is properly funded. Yet ministers remain concerningly tight-lipped on crucial details, such as how many of the 20,000 people they’ve pledged to help are already in the UK, and how many additional refugees stuck overseas will be welcomed.
“The government must also provide urgent clarity on how it intends to back local councils and international organizations to make sure people fleeing the Taliban quickly receive the life-saving protection and support they desperately need.”
A British Red Cross spokesperson told The Guardian: “We welcome the news that the UK government is set to open the resettlement program that was promised to people within Afghanistan who need protection.
“We know that resettlement programs can be lifelines for people fleeing persecution and violence, especially when the right support is in place when they arrive in the UK. Our experience supporting a previous program — for people from Syria — is that for these schemes to work well it has to be a real partnership between national and local government, charities like our own, but also the communities themselves, who play a vital role in welcoming those who seek safety here.
“When that’s in place, the benefit (for) people affected by the crisis and the communities that welcome them is huge. We look forward to hearing more about the plan and how this will work in practice.”