Boris Johnson to unveil Afghan resettlement scheme for those 'most in need'

16 August 2021, 22:31 | Updated: 17 August 2021, 06:40

The Prime Minister said the scheme would focus on women and girls
The Prime Minister said the scheme would focus on women and girls. Picture: Getty

By Elizabeth Haigh

Boris Johnson has announced a new resettlement scheme following criticism that the UK was not doing enough to help the people of Afghanistan as the Taliban took over the country.

He has announced the program for Afghans "most in need" following the collapse of the government and transfer of power to the Taliban. The scheme will prioritise women and girls, who face severe repression under Taliban governance.

After a lightning fast advance in recent days, the Taliban have now taken over almost all of Afghanistan and have announced the creation of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan". US and other allied troops maintain control of Kabul airport, where foreign nationals and former Afghan staff are being evacuated. 

The Taliban are expected to reinstate an extreme form of sharia law in the country, as was in place prior to allied intervention in 2001. This would include public executions and amputation of limbs for criminal offences, as well as strict restrictions on women’s rights and freedom of speech.

Women could face being unable to work or be educated, as well as being forced to wear a burka and being unable to leave their home without a male relative.

READ MORE: Further 200 UK troops to be sent to Afghanistan

READ MORE: 'I think it's appalling what we've done to the Afghan people'

According to Downing Street, the PM spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron this evening and will speak to other world leaders in the coming days in order to push for a coordinated international response to the crisis.

Downing Street say that the UK and France will be working on a joint UN Security Council resolution following a meeting of the council earlier today.

Chaotic scenes have emerged across Afghanistan as citizens flee Taliban control
Chaotic scenes have emerged across Afghanistan as citizens flee Taliban control. Picture: Alamy

This afternoon, the PM chaired an emergency Cobra meeting where it was decided that a further 200 soldiers would be deployed in order to help evacuate British nationals and eligible Afghans from the country. These are Afghans that assisted UK troops, such as interpreters, and their families. Afghans that have assisted allied forces have previously been killed by Taliban militants.

The announcement of the scheme follows criticism of the UK government after other nations already launched much broader refugee settlement schemes. Canada has plans to welcome 20,000 refugees, while German President Angela Merkel stated that Germany could take up to 10,000.

PM Boris Johnson is to attend a virtual G7 meeting in the coming days, which will focus on the risk of Afghanistan once again becoming a source of terror threats and how to assist the people of Afghanistan, including through increased humanitarian efforts.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The UK team in Afghanistan is working around the clock in incredibly difficult circumstances to help British nationals and as many others as we can get to safety as soon as possible.

"At the same time, we are bringing together the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis emerging in Afghanistan – it’s in everyone’s interest not to let Afghanistan fail.

"That means providing whatever support we can to the Afghan people who have worked so hard to make the country a better place over the last twenty years and who are now in need of our help."

UK officials are currently processing applications from Afghans eligible to come to the UK at Kabul airport. UK ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow is reportedly himself helping with these efforts, as the situation becomes increasingly pressurised.

READ MORE: 'Some people won't get back' Defence Secretary chokes up over Afghanistan

READ MORE: Afghanistan live: Desperate crowds cling to US aircraft at Kabul in bid to flee Taliban

Chaotic scenes have been seen across social media in recent days as Afghan citizens have become more and more desperate to escape the Taliban. Civilians have massed upon Kabul airport, attempting to board military planes and clinging on to them as they took off.

US forces have been forced to suspend flights several times while they regained control of the runway. US officials have confirmed that at least 7 people have died at the airport, both after falling from planes and incidents of 2 separate people approaching troops with guns.