How Is The UK Government Helping Afghans Escape The Taliban?

“We need to build an international coalition around this, matching the UK commitment with commitment from all our allies – we have a deep moral obligation here.”

Over 3 million Afghans have been forced to leave their homes and are desperately trying to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban seized back control. 

Lawyers and campaigners claimed that British nationals of Afghan origin were overlooked for the emergency evacuation programme from Kabul.

During an interview on Monday 16th August UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace choked up, admitting that “some people will not get back’’ as Britain tries to evacuate Afghan allies from Kabul alongside British citizens. 

The British forces were initially aiming to repatriate more than 1,000 people a day. The UK government evacuation operation officially finished on 31st August. More than 17,000 people have now left Kabul with the help of UK troops, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). This includes 5,000 UK nationals.

The UK is also negotiating with the Taliban to secure “safe passage” out of Afghanistan for more British nationals and Afghan allies.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister’s special representative for Afghan transition, Sir Simon Gass, has travelled to Doha and is meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us over the past 20 years.”

2000 Afghans were eligible for the UK government’s relocation programme – Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which launched on 1st April 2021. This includes relocating Afghans who work for the British government such as interpreters, cultural advisers, and embassy staff. The Home Office announced it has now increased that figure to 8,000 Afghans who will be given “indefinite leave to remain”. 

Victoria Atkins, who has been appointed Afghan Resettlement minister, said: “The stability of indefinite leave, the security of access to healthcare and the opportunity of education are the foundation upon which those resettled to the UK can build.”

One crucial and controversial detail that has not gained much media attention is Wallace’s past. He was overseas director for an arms company, QinetiQ, which has profited millions out of the occupation of Afghanistan. In fact, QinetiQ share prices soared 11 years ago after it gained contracts to supply weapons for the war in Afghanistan.

On 16th August it was reported that the Home Office didn’t want to give asylum to Afghans fleeing violence from the Taliban “because of the message it would send to refugees.”

Zarah Sultana tweeted: “Priti Patel’s sheer cruelty and inhumanity is astonishing, especially given Britain’s key role in creating this crisis.”  On 18th August, the UK Home Office announced plans to accept 20,000 Afghan refugees in the long term.

The British government’s Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will aim to allow 5,000 Afghans to settle in the UK in the first year. They will focus on women, children, religious and other minorities who are in greatest danger from the Taliban. But here’s the downside – the scheme is not open yet. 

Despite the UK’S government’s new intentions, it also needs to keep its existing promises. 35 Afghan students who had been offered prestigious Chevening Scholarships to study at UK universities in September had their places deferred for the next academic year.

Former Conservative cabinet minister David Lidington tweeted that the decision to withdraw the scholarships seemed both “morally wrong and against UK interests”. “Surely those accepted onto #Chevening will be at particular risk from Taliban & among ‘brightest & best’ whom our government rightly wants to attract to UK.” 

There is still a limit to the number of people the UK can safely evacuate. So the reality is that millions of Afghans will be left stranded in Afghanistan. Former Tory MP and currently senior fellow of the Jackson Institute Rory Stewart tweeted: “We need to build an international coalition around this, matching the UK commitment with commitment from all our allies – we have a deep moral obligation here.” 

The international community must work alongside the UK by taking accountability to rescue innocent Afghans at the hands of terrorists. 

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