The government has announced that the long-awaited Afghan citizens resettlement scheme will start in January 2022.
The programme will provide support for up to 20,000 Afghanen, prioritising women, children and others at risk.
The government says those who stood up for women’s rights, freedom of speech and the rule of law will also be prioritised under the scheme.
It added that some of those already evacuated, including women’s rights activists, journalists and prosecutors, will be the first to be resettled under the scheme and will be granted indefinite leave to remain, which gives them the right to work and study.
Those who worked for the British Council and the security firm Gardaworld, and alumni of the Chevening scholarship programme, will also be considered for resettlement.
Egter, charities working with refugees have asked the government to provide more clarity about how the scheme will work.
Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding at Refugee Action, gesê: “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 programme 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 organisations to make sure people fleeing the Taliban quickly receive the life-saving protection and support they desperately need.”
A British Red Cross spokesperson said: “We welcome the news that the UK government is set to open the resettlement programme that was promised to people within Afghanistan who need protection.
“We know that resettlement programmes 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 programme – 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 [vir] 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.”