Priti Patel defends plans to take 30,000 Afghan refugees and interpreters

Priti Patel today batted away Tory calls to more than double the government’s vow to take 20,000 Afghan refugees – but said the number of interpreters and support staff given safe haven will rise.

In a round of interviews as the desperate evacuation effort continues in Kabul, the Home Secretary dismissed criticism of the new resettlement scheme, saying it represents an ‘enormous effort’.  

Women, girls and those facing persecution will get priority as some 20,000 are granted the right to live in the UK – with 5,000 expected in the first year.

Meanwhile, Ms Patel said an existing programme designed to protect Afghan translators and other workers who were employed by British forces will be expanded from 5,000 people to around 10,000.

However, senior Conservatives have suggested that the UK should be accepting ‘north of 50,000’ refugees, and there has also been criticism of the pace. 

Boris Johnson will run the gauntlet of MP fury about the meltdown in Afghanistan this morning when he addresses the recalled House of Commons. 

Priti Patel today batted away Tory calls to more than double the government's vow to take 20,000 Afghan refugees - but said the number of interpreters and support staff given safe haven will rise

Priti Patel today batted away Tory calls to more than double the government's vow to take 20,000 Afghan refugees - but said the number of interpreters and support staff given safe haven will rise

Priti Patel today batted away Tory calls to more than double the government’s vow to take 20,000 Afghan refugees – but said the number of interpreters and support staff given safe haven will rise

Up to 25,000 Afghans in danger from the Taliban will be allowed to come to Britain in one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the country's history

Up to 25,000 Afghans in danger from the Taliban will be allowed to come to Britain in one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the country's history

Up to 25,000 Afghans in danger from the Taliban will be allowed to come to Britain in one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the country’s history

Boris Johnson will run the gauntlet of MP fury about the meltdown in Afghanistan this morning when he addresses the recalled House of Commons

Boris Johnson will run the gauntlet of MP fury about the meltdown in Afghanistan this morning when he addresses the recalled House of Commons

Boris Johnson will run the gauntlet of MP fury about the meltdown in Afghanistan this morning when he addresses the recalled House of Commons

How will the new resettlement scheme work and who will get priority? 

The new Afghan resettlement programme is separate from the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which grants haven to former interpreters and others who helped Western forces over the past 20 years.

It will be modelled on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme which launched in 2014 in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UNHCR identifies potential cases for the UK to consider and applicants are then vetted by British officials.

Priority will be given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities.

There will be a particular focus on whether people are at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban. 

The UK can reject cases on ‘security, war crimes or other grounds’. 

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Ms Patel said the circumstances were ‘very difficult’. 

‘We have to ensure we have the support structures throughout the United Kingdom. We will be working with local councils throughout the country, the devolved governments as well,’ she told Sky News.

‘We are working quickly on this. We cannot accommodate 20,000 people all in one go. Currently we are bringing back almost 1,000 people a day.

‘This is an enormous effort. We can’t do this on our own. We have to work together.’

She insisted that it was right to set an initial figure of 20,000 for the coming years, although it could rise in the future. 

‘We have got to come up with the actual infrastructure, the support, the resettlement,’ Ms Patel told BBC News.

‘We are going to be working with all partners. We could end up bringing many more but first of all we have to have the underpinning and the infrastructure and the support to do that.’

Ms Patel said that double the 5,000 originally announced could be admitted under the existing Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

‘There could be up to 10,000. We are expanding categories of people,’ she said.

‘We are working with the MoD on the ground. We are working with partners on the ground to identify these individuals.

‘We are working night and day. I am sending in Home Office officials, Border Force officials, to the region to help support this scheme as well.’

The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will focus on women and girls who fear their rights will be trampled under the ‘Islamic Emirate’ declared by the Taliban.

It will also offer help to those forced to flee their homes and to religious minorities in the country. They will be given the right to stay in the UK permanently.

A previous scheme for Syrian refugees cost about £8,000 per person – so the new commitments are likely to come with a huge price tag of up to £200million.

Mr Johnson 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.

‘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.’ But the PM stressed he wanted to share responsibility with other nations to prevent a ‘humanitarian emergency’ in Afghanistan.

Boris Johnson announced that up to 20,000 will be given the right to live here under a far-ranging new scheme – with 5,000 expected in the first year

Boris Johnson announced that up to 20,000 will be given the right to live here under a far-ranging new scheme – with 5,000 expected in the first year

Boris Johnson announced that up to 20,000 will be given the right to live here under a far-ranging new scheme – with 5,000 expected in the first year

‘The best solution for everyone is an Afghanistan that works for all Afghans. That means the international community coming together to set firm, political conditions for the country’s future governance.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the scheme would allow the ‘most vulnerable’ Afghans to ‘start a new life in safety in the UK, away from the tyranny and oppression they now face’.

‘We will not abandon people who have been forced to flee their homes and are now living in terror of what might come next,’ she added.

Afghans allowed to come to the UK will be distributed across the country, the Government indicated last night. A spokesman said it would work with the devolved administrations and local councils to make sure Afghans get help to rebuild their lives.

The new Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme will focus on women and girls who fear their rights will be trampled under the 'Islamic Emirate' declared by the Taliban

The new Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme will focus on women and girls who fear their rights will be trampled under the 'Islamic Emirate' declared by the Taliban

The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will focus on women and girls who fear their rights will be trampled under the ‘Islamic Emirate’ declared by the Taliban

Ministers had promised to set up a ‘generous’ and ‘world-leading’ programme to resettle those fleeing the new Taliban regime.

Ms Patel has been pressing members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for ‘international collaboration on setting up safe and legal routes for Afghan refugees’.

The new Afghan programme will be modelled on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme which launched in 2014 in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UNHCR identifies potential cases for the UK to consider and applicants are then vetted by British officials.

A previous scheme for Syrian refugees cost about £8,000 per person – so the new commitments are likely to come with a huge price tag of up to £200million

A previous scheme for Syrian refugees cost about £8,000 per person – so the new commitments are likely to come with a huge price tag of up to £200million

A previous scheme for Syrian refugees cost about £8,000 per person – so the new commitments are likely to come with a huge price tag of up to £200million

The UK can reject cases on ‘security, war crimes or other grounds’, according to Home Office guidance. 

World leaders have shown varied reactions to the plight of Afghans. 

French president Emmanuel Macron came under fire last night after he said France would ‘protect’ itself from migrants fleeing the crisis in Afghanistan.

He faced accusations that he was letting down ordinary Afghans after he pledged a robust European approach against illegal migration.

Greece took a similar approach yesterday as it said it would not become ‘the gateway of Europe’ for Afghans fleeing the conflict.

The country was on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 and, like other EU member states, it is nervous developments in Afghanistan could trigger a replay of the situation.

Link hienalouca.com

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