UK to give sanctuary to 20,000 refugees fleeing Afghanistan
- Credit: PA
The UK will welcome 20,000 Afghans in the coming years as the government unveiled plans to provide sanctuary for those most at risk of persecution by the Taliban.
Fears have been building for those who worked against the Taliban in Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul to the militants on Sunday, with increasing calls for ministers to step up to rescue those who wish to leave the country.
Boris Johnson has promised that up to 5,000 Afghans can find refuge in the UK this year, with up to 20,000 in the longer term.
The prime minister, who will address MPs on Wednesday on the crisis in Afghanistan, said: "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.
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"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."
The new Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme will target women, children, and others who have been forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban, with the government adding this was in addition to the 5,000 Afghans already expected to move to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which is designed to offer local allies such as interpreters priority relocation to the UK.
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Government figures showed 2,000 have already arrived under the ARAP programme.
On Tuesday evening, home secretary Priti Patel chaired a meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance to identify safe and legal routes for those who need to leave Afghanistan.
Priority will be given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities.
Ms Patel said: "The UK government will always stand by those in the world in their hour of need when fleeing persecution or oppression.
"I want to ensure that as a nation we do everything possible to provide support to the most vulnerable fleeing Afghanistan so they can start a new life in safety in the UK, away from the tyranny and oppression they now face."
Ministers said they would keep the scheme under review in coming years.