Britain on Tuesday announced a resettlement plan for Afghans fleeing the Taliban after returning to power, with an initial 5,000 places in the first year, rising to 20,000 in the long run.
The announcement came on the eve of an extraordinary session of parliament on Wednesday, where MPs recalled from vacation will discuss the collapse of the Afghan government so soon after the withdrawal of Western troops.
About 900 British troops have been sent back to the Afghan capital to assist in the repatriation of thousands of British nationals, including embassy staff, after the Islamists returned.
London said priority would be given to those most at risk, including Afghan women, children and others forced to flee or face threats and persecution from the hardliners, giving them a chance to live indefinitely in Greater Britain. to stay in Britain.
“This resettlement scheme will be further evaluated in the coming years, with a total of 20,000 over the long term,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
The scheme is modeled on the resettlement of 20,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria from 2014 to this year.
Britain was one of the United States’ closest allies in President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
In the troubled southern Afghan province of Helmand, Britain alone had 9,500 troops and 137 bases. And his involvement cost money, with more than 450 soldiers killed.
But high-ranking politicians and top military officials have condemned the peace deal negotiated by US former President Donald Trump that led to the withdrawal of US-led troops and gave the Taliban a chance to make a virtually unopposed return.
The government said it was working with foreign allies, including in the “Five Eyes” intelligence partnership with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to identify those most at risk, even as Taliban leaders promised amnesty and promised not to take any action. revenge.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants an urgent meeting of G7 leaders to prevent Afghanistan from turning into a humanitarian disaster, and calls for a “united approach” and more money for aid.
“We are deeply indebted to everyone who has worked with us over the past 20 years to make Afghanistan a better place,” he said.
“Many of them, especially women, urgently need our help now.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose family fled to Britain from Idi Amin’s Uganda, said the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme “will save lives”.
“Our country has a proud history of providing shelter for those in need. We will not abandon people who have been forced to flee their homes and now live in fear of what might come,” she said.
Britain has come under fire for cutting its foreign aid budget and tightening immigration rules following its departure from the European Union, including for migrants – many of them from conflict zones – crossing the Channel from France.
It is also under pressure to do more to help resettle Afghan interpreters who helped the military after the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001.
The latest announcement is separate from that plan, which is expected to relocate 5,000 former employees and their families by the end of this year: 2,000 have already arrived.
Since Saturday, the eve of the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, 520 British citizens, diplomats and former Afghan staff have left Afghanistan on military flights, the interior ministry said.