Thank you for contacting me about helping Afghan refugees.
I am sure you agree that we owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with our country to make Afghanistan a better place over the last twenty years. Thousands of Afghan interpreters, support staff and their families now face persecution by the Taliban. Those that worked closely with western countries must be offered sanctuary; they were never forced to support us so we must take responsibility for them in their time of need.
I am proud of the United Kingdom's history of welcoming those fleeing persecution and oppression. It is therefore extremely encouraging that thousands of Afghan women, children and others most in need will be welcomed to the UK. The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) will be one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the history of the UK. This new route is modelled on the successful Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, which resettled 20,000 Syrian refugees over a seven-year period from 2014 to 2021.
Ministers have outlined that the new scheme will resettle 5,000 Afghan nationals in its first year with priority 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. I understand that this resettlement scheme will be kept under further review for future years, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term.
I would like to reassure you that this new scheme is separate from, and in addition to, the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which offers any current or former locally employed staff who are assessed to be under serious threat to life priority relocation to the UK. 5,000 former Afghan staff and their family members are expected to be relocated to the UK by the end of this year under ARAP.
As you may be aware the Government previously announced that those coming to the UK through resettlement routes would receive immediate indefinite leave to remain. I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary has now announced that this will apply to Afghans who worked closely with the British military and UK Government in Afghanistan. This means they can now stay in the UK without any time restrictions. It is also the case that those already relocated to the UK under the Afghanistan (ARAP) will be able to apply free of charge to convert their temporary leave into indefinite leave.
I am particularly encouraged by this announced as it will give Afghans the certainty and stability to rebuild their lives with unrestricted rights to work and the option to apply for British citizenship in the future.
A new international coalition must also be created to provide safe passage, funding and safe havens for the millions of refugees. I therefore welcome the fact that the UK is working with international partners to develop a system to identify those most at risk and resettle them, ensuring help goes to those that need it.
I will continue to monitor the situation extremely closely over the coming days and weeks.