Pen Farthing talks of 'total relief' as charity staff are flown into UK

11 October 2021, 22:02

Pen Farthing had staff and animals from his charity Nowzad evacuated from Afghanistan
Pen Farthing had staff and animals from his charity Nowzad evacuated from Afghanistan. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Paul "Pen" Farthing has spoken of his relief after dozens of his staff from his animal shelter in Afghanistan have successfully been flown to the UK.

The former Royal Marine said it is a "total relief" to know his staff are safe as they are gradually flown to Britain from Pakistan after leaving Kabul on September 11.

"It's a total relief to be honest, knowing that they're safe now in England or on their way to England and starting new lives with all the opportunities for them," said Mr Farthing.

"We've got a shortage of veterinarians here in the UK so having these passionate people to add to the team is only going to help us all.

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"I'm looking forward to the day when they're going to get out of quarantine and then I actually get to see them in person.

"That's going to be absolutely amazing."

Mr Farthing, 52, said workers from the Nowzad charity and their families have been flying into Britain from Islamabad, Pakistan, over the last month, after sorting out their British visas and taking PCR tests.

A total of 50 have moved so far, with a further 17 still in Islamabad being processed.

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Some staff will now retrain to qualify as vets in the UK while others will get different jobs and study English to improve their language skills.

Mr Farthing said that the charity has received offers of accommodation, jobs and support from Britons who are keen to help the Afghans settle into their new lives.

A total of 94 dogs and 68 cats were rescued from Afghanistan after Nowzad launched its Operation Ark campaign following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

A total of 10 dogs have so far been adopted and 30 are waiting to be rehomed.

The rest are due to be reunited with their owners, who already adopted or owned them prior to the US and UK withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan.

Most of the animals are also still in quarantine due to paperwork, or because their owners have not been able to collect them yet.

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Mr Farthing and his wife Kaisa were also reunited with their dogs, Ragnar, Cora and Ewok, at the end of September after the pair had to quarantine following their visit to Afghanistan.

A branch of Nowzad still remains in Kabul but now solely operates as a donkey rescue centre.

It is being run by Nowzad staff who did not want to leave Afghanistan.

Reflecting on the difficulties over the last few months, Mr Farthing said he would not change how he and his staff dealt with the evacuation of the animals and workers from Kabul but criticised the Government's handling of it.

"From our side of things, we dealt with the cards that we were dealt with and we had to make plans based on the information we had and the situation as it was evolving," he said.

"Definitely the American government and the British government could have planned this withdrawal a lot better and in a different way, without a shadow of a doubt.

"Recently I've seen that the British representative to Afghanistan has just met with the Taliban, their leadership, in Kabul.

"That's only a month after the withdrawal.

"We have to ask, why did they put everybody through that?

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"We could have had a completely different outcome to this.

"I think they put the emphasis on the fact it was an emergency evacuation and so everybody had to go with it.

"There's not a lot we could have done any differently."

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "The Government continues to do all it can to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave, and is committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan."