People considered most at risk under the Taliban will be able to resettle permanently in the UK, the Government has confirmed, as it outlined Afghan funding support.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins, who is coordinating Operation Warm Welcome, reiterated indefinite leave to remain will be granted to those Afghans who worked with the British government and military – under a scheme known as the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap).
But Ms Atkins went on to confirm up to 20,000 refugees expected to arrive under the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme (ACRS) will also have the same “certainty of status”.
Both groups will have the option to apply for British citizenship after five years.
Local authorities will receive £20,000 per person to provide support to resettled Afghans in a bid to “integrate into British society and become self-sufficient more quickly”, Ms Atkins said.
The UK evacuated more than 15,000 people since August 13, of whom more than 8,000 are Arap claimants.
Making a statement to the Commons, Ms Atkins said: “We recognise the difficult, exceptional and unique circumstances in which many arrived in the UK, so we will be offering immediate indefinite leave to remain to Afghan nationals and their family members who were evacuated or who were called forward during Operation Pitting but will come to the UK after evacuation.
“This will provide certainty about their status, entitlement to benefits and right to work.”
On the ACRS, Ms Atkins said: “This scheme will prioritise those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights and freedom of speech, the rule of law, and could include judges, women’s rights activists and journalists, along with many others.
“It will also prioritise vulnerable people including women and girls at risk and members of minority groups at risk, such as ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT+ people.
Ms Atkins explained the UK will seek to identify and resettle refugees who have already fled Afghanistan, and work with partners in the region to establish a “referral process” for those in Afghanistan in a bid to give them safe passage.
She said: “Those brought to the UK under Arap or the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme will have certainty of status through indefinite leave to remain. They will be able to apply for British citizenship after five years under existing rules.”
Ms Atkins “urged” more local authorities to support the resettlement effort, telling MPs: “Local authorities will receive a core tariff of more than £20,000 per person which will be provided over three years to support resettled Afghans to integrate into British society and become self-sufficient more quickly.
“Funding will also be provided to support education, English language and health provision in the first year, and there will be a further £20 million of flexible funding in the current financial year to support local authorities with higher costs bases with any additional costs in the provisions of services.”