Home Office accused of ‘extraordinary’ delay as Afghan refugee scheme opens five months after fall of Kabul

A scheme to bring Afghan refugees to the UK is to open five months after the fall of Kabul, the Home Office has announced, as it was accused of an “extraordinary” delay in offering British support.

The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme was first announced in August and will provide assistance to up to 20,000 refugees to make new lives in the UK after the fall of the country to the Taliban.

Ministers say the Government is “committed to supporting everyone we have evacuated from Afghanistan to make a success of their new life in the UK” and will move forward with a “safe and legal way for the most vulnerable and at-risk people from Afghanistan to come to the United Kingdom and rebuild their lives”.

But critics of the scheme say it provides too little support, too late, because many civilians who would benefit from help from the UK have already faced recriminations from the Taliban and are no longer able to leave Afghanistan.

Afghan refugee support: ‘Preposterous’ that it has taken so long

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the introduction of the scheme but said it was “extraordinary that it had taken this long”.

Comparing the Home Office’s measures to a similar scheme run by the Ministry of Defence for former Afghan soldiers and those who assisted UK troops, he added: “The MoD acted on the warning of Kabul’s likely fall by updating the ARAP [Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy] scheme in April. I’m glad others have caught up.”

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP who also sits on the committee, said: “Why on earth has it taken this long?

“It’s not as if they didn’t have ages to prepare for it.

“It’s preposterous and it makes me very angry. People have been living in fear and recriminations have been going on endlessly.”

He added that since the plan was based on another refugee scheme for Syrians, it was a “cut and paste job” and should have been completed sooner.

The Home Office said the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme will prioritise those who have assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan and extremely vulnerable people, such as women and girls at risk and members of minority groups.

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