The UK Government has announced a new settlement programme to allow Afghans refuge in the UK as the Taliban seizes Afghanistan.
The Taliban have now become de factor rulers of Afghanistan as Government officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, fled to the UAE.
The Taliban were last in power in the 1990s throughout Afghanistan’s civil war, and were widely condemned by the international community for their strict implementation of an extreme interpretation of Islamic Sharia law and brutish treatment of civilians, particularly towards women.
They were later overthrown by the US and UK in the wake of 9/11 for harbouring Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda operatives.
The current crisis follows the US and UK’s withdrawal of troops from the country. Despite Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stating that “no one saw this coming”, a US intelligence assessment reported on just two months ago warned that the Afghan government could fall within six months of US military personnel leaving.
On 18 August 2021, the Home Office announced that it intends to provide leave to remain in the UK to 20,000 Afghans under the scheme, with the first 5,000 to be resettled in its first year of implementation. Parliament was today called back from Summer Recess to debate the UK’s response to the ongoing situation in Afghan.
Canada has also pledged to resettle 20,000 Afghans, with the US and Germany expected to commit to similar numbers.
The details of the scheme are likely to be based on the model implemented to provide help during the Syrian refugee crisis. However, it is unclear whether the UK will establish safe routes for those granted, as was the case with the Syrian resettlement scheme.
Access to Kabul airport is now under the control of the Taliban, and it is not known how long they will facilitate departures for those fleeing.
The plans supplement an existing targeted scheme, the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, which is intended to help those who assisted UK forces, such as interpreters, throughout their presence over the last two decades, and who are therefore deemed at risk by an increasing presence of the Taliban.
It is not clear at this stage whether the scheme will be extended to those Afghans who assisted UK military and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan through their work with third-party contractors.
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