UK to give 20,000 Afghan refugees sanctuary in the UK

The scheme will target those most at risk from Taliban persecution.

The UK government has announced that it will resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees in the coming years to provide sanctuary for those most at risk of Taliban persecution.

The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will focus on resettling children, women and others who have been forced to flee their home due to Taliban threats.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • It is feared the lives of those who worked against the Taliban in Afghanistan are now in danger following the extremist group’s takeover of the country on Sunday.
  • Following growing calls to help those wishing to leave the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised that up to 5,000 Afghans can seek refuge in the UK this year, with up to 20,000 settled in the longer-term. 
  • Opposition parties have criticised the plans, saying they don’t go far enough and are too vague to really make a difference.
  • The Taliban held their first press conference on Tuesday, saying that it would guarantee the safety of those who worked with foreign governments and would uphold women’s rights under “Islamic law”. 
  • Analysts, however, have expressed scepticism over these promises and warn that Afghanistan could once again become a hotbed for terrorism.

What’s been said

Johnson said of the new scheme:

“We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last 20 years.

“Many of them, particularly women, are now in urgent need of our help. I am proud that the UK has been able to put in place this route to help them and their families live safely in the UK.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, welcomed the scheme, but said a  “more urgent plan of action” was needed.

He said: “This proposal does not meet the scale of the challenge. Not only does that risk leaving people in Afghanistan in deadly danger, it will also undermine the leadership role Britain must play in persuading international partners to live up to their responsibilities.”

Background

Johnson is set to address Parliament on Wednesday about the current crisis in Afghanistan.

He is expected to outline how the international community can act to avert a humanitarian crisis, which will require an increase in humanitarian aid.

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