Operation Warm Welcome: Afghans who helped Britain can remain in UK permanently

1 September 2021, 00:04 | Updated: 1 September 2021, 09:09

Afghan refugees eligible for the Arap scheme will be given immediate indefinite leave to remain
Afghan refugees eligible for the Arap scheme will be given immediate indefinite leave to remain. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Afghans who worked with the British government and military will be able to move to the UK permanently, the Home Office has confirmed.

The department announced the decision on Wednesday as it revealed more details of its plan, dubbed Operation Warm Welcome, to help Afghans rebuild their lives in the UK.

"We owe an immense debt to those who worked with the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and I am determined that we give them and their families the support they need to rebuild their lives here in the UK," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"I know this will be an incredibly daunting time, but I hope they will take heart from the wave of support and generosity already expressed by the British public."

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The announcement means that former Afghan staff and their family members eligible for the UK Government's Arap (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme will be given immediate indefinite leave to remain as opposed to only five years' temporary residency as previously permitted.

Those who have already been relocated in the UK with temporary residency can now upgrade their immigration status for free, allowing them access to permanent jobs with unrestricted rights to work.

Victoria Atkins, who has been appointed Afghan Resettlement minister, said: "The stability of indefinite leave, the security of access to healthcare and the opportunity of education are the foundation upon which those resettled to the UK can build."

More than 8,000 of the 15,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan by the UK are Arap claimants.

As well as indefinite leave to remain, the UK Government has also pledged liaison officers to help families access the services they need and an online portal to register support such as donations and accommodation offers.

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They have also made a number of financial pledges, including £12 million to help children enrol in schools quickly, £3 million to help families access healthcare and register with a GP, and £5 million to help councils provide housing support.

There is a heavy focus on education as well, with the Government promising funding for up to 300 university scholarships for Afghans at UK universities, for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Adults will also be able to access English language courses free of charge, the Government has said.

The Government is still developing the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, to take in up to 20,000 refugees who were forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban.

It prioritises relocation to the UK for current or former locally employed staff who have been assessed to be under serious threat to life.

As many as 5,000 people could arrive in the first year and will also be offered permanent residency.

Some £200 million has been committed to the scheme so far.

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All arrivals from Afghanistan are being offered the coronavirus vaccine, with over 700 people having received a first dose and left quarantine so far.

So far more than 100 councils have come forward to help evacuated families find homes, with more than 2,000 places already confirmed, the Home Office said.

The Communities Secretary is expected to meet with council leaders across the country in the coming days.