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Ministers are expected to announce plans for a new settlement scheme in the UK for Afghan nationals following the Taliban takeover of the country. Similar to a scheme put in place for Syrians in 2014 amid the country’s civil war, this would be in addition to existing structures to assist some Afghan nationals.
What has been announced?
So far, nothing. But the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said on Tuesday morning that ministers were working on a “bespoke” resettlement scheme for vulnerable Afghans, in addition to the usual asylum system, modelled on the Syrian scheme. Raab said he could not give any details, as these would come “shortly” from Priti Patel, the home secretary, and from Boris Johnson.
How many Afghans could be helped?
Raab declined to say. The Syrian scheme, which ended earlier this year, took in 20,319 people in all, and there is political pressure for any plan for Afghan nationals to be at least on this scale. Canada has pledged to take in 20,000 Afghans and the US is likely to take 30,000, with Germany also looking at taking in vulnerable nationals. Six years ago, Germany admitted more than 1 million migrants, mainly Syrians and Iraqis fleeing conflict.
Who is pushing for the UK to take Afghan nationals?
There have been cross-party calls for this, including from Damian Green, the Conservative MP and former cabinet minister, as well as the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, and the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Speaking on Tuesday, the shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock called for “a bold and ambitious and generous offer” on resettlement.
What else is the UK government doing?
Ministers are focused on trying to assist UK nationals and joint UK-Afghan nationals in leaving the country, with Raab saying officials had been contacted by up to 2,000 eligible people. This process was hampered by chaotic scenes at Kabul’s airport on Sunday, with thousands of people massing on runways. Evacuation flights have resumed after overseas troops cleared the airport.
What about Afghans who have worked with UK forces?
The UK already has a scheme in place called Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, or Arap, set up in December last year ahead of the removal of UK troops. This is intended to allow Afghan nationals who have worked with UK troops, for example as translators, or with other UK bodies, to be offered relocation to the UK if they are viewed as being at serious risk if they remain in Afghanistan. Raab said that in the last week, 289 people had left Afghanistan under the scheme, but declined to say how many could qualify. He also warned some eligible people may be left behind if the airport does not remain secure.
Are there other schemes?
In September, 35 Afghan students were due to take up places at British universities under the Chevening scholarships system. But the Foreign Office said these were being deferred for a year because the UK embassy in Kabul could no longer administer their visas. However, Boris Johnson later said the government would try to make sure they were admitted.