The UK Government has now made an announcement about the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme and I am enclosing a number of links to documents that provide more information. Details of the scheme are available here:
We now know what the priority groups will be – namely:
those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law
vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk (including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT+)
We have also learned that there will not be a formal application process because ministers say there will be many more people seeking to come to the UK under the scheme than there are places. It seems that the Government will be deciding who to invite to come forward for the scheme and will work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in doing so. They will also work with international partners and NGOs in the region to implement a referral process for those inside Afghanistan, (where safe passage can be arranged,) and for those who have recently fled to countries in the region.
I tried to get greater clarity on how this will all work by questioning the minister when she made her statement and you can see our exchange here: https://www.hilarybennmp.com/newsfromhilary/2021/09/13/watch-hilarys-recent-question-about-the-afghan-resettlement-scheme/
Ministers have also made clear that they are not now giving advice on trying to escape over the border to a third country because of the dangerous security situation. They say that it is for individuals in Afghanistan to make that decision in the light of local knowledge and the degree of risk they think they face.
You can read the full letter from Victoria Atkins MP (the Home Office minister) regarding the resettlement scheme at this link: https://storage.googleapis.com/electormail-uk/02b535320633ce5d86e4ed1ed6bc9404/130921-dear-colleague-letter-acrs1.pdf
I have still not had any further responses to the many emails I have sent on behalf of you and your families. Victoria Atkins MP stated the following in a further letter which makes it clear that the Home Office do not intend to respond directly to MPs’ enquiries:
We must deal with the circumstances as they are, rather than as we would wish them to be. This new reality means that, at present, we cannot provide to MPs assessments or updates on those individuals who remain in Afghanistan and whose cases they have raised. We appreciate that is difficult news to deliver to constituents who are desperately worried about family members and friends.
With great regret, we will not be able, therefore, to respond to colleagues with specific updates on individuals. The deteriorating security situation means that such information is not possible to obtain or may change very quickly.
I am sorry for this disappointing news, given the time and effort that MPs and their teams have spent logging your families’ details with the Home Office, and I hope you will bear with us.
I realise just how worrying the current situation is and I know that there will be real concern about your family members if they are not called to take part in the resettlement scheme.
I hope this is helpful and I will keep you posted as we learn more.
Hilary Benn MP