Afghan Refugees “Have Done Right By Us, We Want To Do Right By Them” Says Minister In Charge Of UK’s Relocation Scheme
The UK has launched 'Operation Warm Welcome' as thousands of Afghan refugees have arrived in recent weeks (Alamy)
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins, who is in charge of relocating Afghan refugees in the UK, says “they have done right by us, we want to do right by them” as she discussed details of the government’s ‘Operation Warm Welcome’.
Those eligible for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), which gives priority for people who worked with Britain and their families, and who are now under threat from the Taliban, will be given immediate indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
This is instead of being given five years' temporary residency, as was previously permitted, and means Afghans eligiible for the Arap scheme will not have to go through the ususal asylum process to stay in the UK.
But Atkins confirmed this offer will not be extended to all of those arriving from Afghanistan, and instead only offered to people who have had a direct involvement in supporting UK operations in the country.
“At the moment, we're focusing on those who we can help here in the UK who have helped the UK in the past, being interpreters or security guards, drivers and so on,” Atkins told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Earlier she told Sky News: “Over the last two weeks alone we've evacuated some 15,000 people to our country and of course since April we've evacuated more people who have done right by us.
“They’re the people who on the ground over the last 20 years have been working with our soldiers, helping to protect, them helping to translate, helping to make our embassies and other areas work.
“The Prime Minister's commitment is absolutely clear to this; they have done right by us, we want to do right by them.
"I'm delighted that we're launching ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ to give a warm welcome to everyone who has landed on our shores in recent weeks, but in the longer term as well, and make sure that with our help they can build bright futures in our country.”
Atkins also acknowledged the potential pressure resettling Afghans could have on the UK’s housing stock, but said new funds would be available to support councils that are rehoming refugeees.
"I want to be straight with people – this is a very, very difficult challenge and we're very, very aware of the pressures on the housing market and housing lists already," she said.
"That's why we've announced this top-up fund to help councils find larger properties for Afghan families.
"This policy will succeed if we welcome and integrate people into our societies and we get them settled into accommodation, help their children get into schools, get them registered at GPs and so on, and then they can begin to pay back into our society.”
The Home Office has confirmed that of the 15,000 people who have arrived since August 13 more than 8,000 are Arap claimants.
So far more than 100 councils have come forward to help families find homes, with more than 2,000 places already confirmed, the department added.
As well as all arrivals being offered the coronavirus vaccine, the government has also pledged £12million to help enrol children in schools quickly, as well free English language courses for adults.
An extra £3million will go to help families access healthcare and register with a GP, along with £5million for councils to provide housing support, and funding for up to 300 undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships at UK universities.
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