By: Sattwik Biswal
THE British government acknowledged that more can be done to help and assist Afghan nationals and their families settle in Britain as they escape from Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban.
Britain earlier announced plans to welcome up to 5,000 Afghans fleeing the Taliban during the first year of a new resettlement programme that will prioritise women, girls and religious and other minorities.
“Approximately only 5 per cent of councils have declined to sign up to our relocation and assistance scheme and close to a third of councils have already stepped up to support new arrivals, but we know there is more that can be done for those that have risked their lives supporting us”, a UK government spokesperson said in an emailed statement late on Friday (27).
“This is why we are calling on all councils who have not yet come forward with a firm offer of support to help Afghan nationals and their families as they build a new life here in safety”, the spokesperson said.
The Telegraph newspaper reported earlier that around 30 councils have refused to take any Afghan refugees who have arrived in the UK after fleeing the Taliban.
An initial request from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to local authorities was met with push back from around 10 per cent of England’s 333 councils, the newspaper had reported.
“We do not recognise these figures”, the government spokesperson said in response to the report.
“Councils in England, Scotland and Wales will have access to a share of an additional £5 million to help them provide the necessary housing and support to Afghans who have worked for this country in Afghanistan, but who now face threats of persecution or worse,” the statement added.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said he would do all he could to help those stuck in Afghanistan who wanted to leave.
“As we come down to the final hours of the operation, there will also be people who haven’t got through, people who might qualify (for resettlement). What I say to them is that we will shift heaven and earth to help them, we will do whatever we can,” Johnson told reporters.
Johnson said that he believed Taliban authorities understood the need to allow safe passage for Afghans who are eligible for resettlement in Western countries.
“If they want to have engagement with the West, if they want to have a relationship with us, then safe passage for those (people) is absolutely paramount,” he said.
Britain has so far evacuated more than 14,500 Afghan and British nationals, the defence ministry said late on Friday (27).
Meanwhile,British troops will end their evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan on Saturday (28), armed forces chief General Nick Carter said.
“We’re reaching the end of the evacuation, which will take place during the course of today. And then it will be necessary to bring our troops out on the remaining aircraft,” he told the BBC.
“We haven’t been able to bring everyone out, and that has been heart-breaking. And there have been some very challenging judgements that have had to be made on the ground.”
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August from a US-backed government, sending thousands fleeing and potentially heralding a return to the militants’ austere and autocratic rule of two decades ago.