Johnson told Westminster politicians on Monday that the biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history is over, with 15,000 people having been brought to safety in the UK.
Boris Johnson stood before the House of Commons MPs on Monday to talk about Britain’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis. He reiterated the government’s commitment to helping Afghans who worked for the British, and said that the UK is working with partners in the region to try to secure their safe passage out of Afghanistan.
The UK’s Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme (ACRS) is expected to provide protection for Afghan citizens identified as most at risk, such as women and girls.
London agreed to take around 5,000 people in the first year and 20,000 in the next few years.
During the parliamentary session on Monday, Johnson said the UK resettlement will include Afghans who contributed to civil society or who face a particular risk from the Taliban*, and they will receive five-year visa.
The UK government is working “urgently to get the Afghanistan citizens’ resettlement scheme up and running”, but there hasn’t yet been an official launch of the ACRS.
The UK launched the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) in 2021, under which any current or former Locally Employed Staff (LES) directly employed by HMG in Afghanistan assessed to be at serious risk of threat to life will be eligible to apply regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served.
The support for Afghan arrivals in the UK includes £3 million additional NHS funding so they can get access to healthcare and register with a GP once they leave quarantine, the COVID-19 vaccine and £5 million funding for councils to help them find accommodation, among other measures.
Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader in Westminster, said that if Johnson wanted to show a warm welcome to refugees, the government should withdraw the Nationality and Borders Bill, which makes arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offence.
Johnson didn’t accept the suggestion, saying the UK has offered a safe and lawful route for thousands of Afghans to enter the UK.
The PM also said that the government would spend what was necessary on counterterrorism, when asked by former PM Theresa May whether he accepted that the fall of Kabul increased the terrorist threat to the UK.
The PM and Foreign Minister Dominic Raab have faced criticism over the government’s handling of the evacuation of British forces from Afghanistan after the takeover of the country by the Taliban. More than 15,000 people have been airlifted by the UK from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, since 14 August. However, around 1,100 Afghans deemed eligible to leave are feared to have been left behind.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on 15 August and announced an end to the decades-long occupation. The organisation is expected to announce members of the new government in the next days.