UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has promised that Afghan refugees arriving in Britain having fled the Taliban will receive permanent UK residency visas. Johnson told the House of Commons that the 20,000 refugees set to arrive in the UK as part of the Afghanistan settlement scheme will be granted indefinite leave to remain.
5,000 refugees are expected to be issued with a UK visa in 2021, while a further 15,000 Afghans will arrive in Britain over the next three years. Johnson also announced that refugees will have access to free English courses and 300 university scholarships.
The Prime Minister said: “We are upholding Britain’s finest tradition of welcoming those in need and I emphasise that under this scheme we will of course work with the UN and aid agencies to identify those we should help.”
Standing up for democracy
“We will also include Afghans who have contributed to civil society or who face a particular risk from the Taliban, for example, because of their role in standing up for democracy and human rights, or because of their gender, or sexuality or religion,” Johnson added.
The UK recently completed its Afghan evacuation efforts. However, more than 300 eligible Afghans have reportedly been left behind. Dominic Raab, the UK Foreign Secretary, recently urged the Taliban to open Kabul international airport and allow the safe passage of those eligible to apply for the Afghanistan settlement scheme.
The Prime Minister said that the Taliban has a duty to stick to its international obligations if it wants to access state funds held overseas.
Security of the UK
Johnson said: “Our first duty is the security of the United Kingdom and if the new regime in Kabul wants international recognition and access to the billions of dollars currently frozen in overseas accounts, then we and our friends will hold them to their agreement to prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming an incubator for terrorism.”
“Additionally, we shall insist on safe passage for anyone who wishes to leave, and respect for the rights of women and girls,” Johnson added.
Special UK visas
Workpermit.com recently reported that a coalition of British media organisations had sent a letter to Johnson and Raab calling for special UK visas to be issued to Afghan staff who have worked for the UK media and are under threat from the Taliban.
The letter stated: “Afghan staff who have worked for the British media should have access to a special visa so that they and their families can leave Afghanistan amid the rising risk of persecution from the Taliban.
“With that in mind, we write to you to highlight the urgent need for a special Afghan visa programme for Afghan staff who have worked for the UK media so that they and their families can leave Afghanistan and find safety in Britain.”
Signatories to the letter included broadcasters Sky and ITN, and all major British newspapers including The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail and The Sun. Weekly magazine The Economist was also a signatory.
The National Union of Journalists and press freedom organisation, Reporters Without Borders, also threw their support behind calls for a special UK visa for Afghan journalists.
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