In response to the escalating crisis in Afghanistan, the government have announced a new resettlement scheme for Afghans known as the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.
In its first year, the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will welcome up to 5,000 Afghans to the UK who have been forced to flee the country, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term.
Priority will be given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities, who are most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban.
This new scheme is in addition Afghan nationals who were former employees of the UK government who are being relocated to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.
Enver Solomon, CEO at the Refugee Council said:
“This swift announcement of a resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees is a positive first step by this government and we are confident communities across Britain will provide a welcome to Afghans forced to flee persecution and danger in their country.
It is vital the scheme is sufficiently ambitious beyond this year and also generous in the support provided to families as councils need to be able to make plans with the assurance that all the resources they require are provided by central government. The Syrian scheme was a success because of long term careful planning and collaboration with local areas and agencies and it will be critical for the same to happen given the challenges councils are facing as a result of the pandemic and overall financial pressures.
It’s important to recognise, however, that a new scheme alone is not sufficient because there will be many Afghans who are already having to take dangerous journeys to reach safety in the UK so this government must also immediately expand eligibility for family reunion enabling family members who have relatives in the UK to travel safely to join their loved ones. The Home Office must suspend any returns of people to Afghanistan, and also quickly decide all asylum claims from Afghans who have arrived in the UK independently, including reviews of those who have previously been refused, as the country is clearly not safe for them right now.
We must also not forget that there are many other men, women and children forced from their homes due to war and oppression in countries such as Eritrea and Sudan so this government should plan for a longer term global resettlement programme and revised family reunion rules which will mean people don’t have to take dangerous journeys at the hands of people smugglers to reach safety”.