On Wednesday this written question from Caroline Lucas was responded to by Victoria Atkins and sadly although it was responded to it did not get an answer to the first and arguably the most critical element of the question. Given that the written question system is capable of being read and responded to with a bit of time, one can only wonder what it requires for Ministers to pay attention to the requests. Of course making statements is something that happens in every answer in one sense so the second part of the question was clearly answered. However although Victoria stated when the resettlement scheme was announced by the Government, she did not state when it will be open Afghanistan citizens which was the question.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will open for applications; for what reasons that scheme was not prepared and available in advance of the US and UK troop withdrawal from Afghanistan; and if she will make a statement.
Victoria Atkins: The UK’s military evacuation from Afghanistan concluded on 28 August. It was the largest UK military evacuation since the Second World War. Our armed forces and Civil Service staff worked around the clock to evacuate over 15,000 people.
At the same time the Government has worked at pace to develop a new and bespoke resettlement scheme, announced on 18 August, which will relocate 5,000 vulnerable Afghans in its first year, rising to 20,000 long-term – one of the most generous schemes in British history. The Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) is in addition to the Afghan Relocations Assistance Policy (ARAP), which has brought around 7,000 Afghans to the UK since launching in April 2021.
Under the ACRS we will work with the international organisations to identify those at risk, as we have done in respect of those who fled the war in Syria – but we will also include Afghans who have contributed to civil society or 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, sexuality or religion. We are working at pace to get the ACRS up and running and we will announce further details as soon as possible.
The UK has an enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan and the Government is continuing to work with international partners on a shared plan for the people of Afghanistan which will contribute to long-term regional stability.