Refugees evacuated from Afghanistan in Leeds, UK on November 30, 2021 [Danny Lawson/WPA Pool/Getty Images]January 10, 2023
The British government has, so far, failed to deliver on its promise to resettle tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans in the United Kingdom over the coming years, a year after it made such guarantees following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.
The Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which was announced upon the Taliban takeover and was set up exactly 12 months ago, pledged to resettle up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans in the coming years and 5,000 in the first year. The government – then under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson – aimed to achieve that through three pathways.
The first was the protection of those already settled in the UK; the second was the resettlement of those who have been referred by the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the third was the resettlement of those who worked for – or were affiliated with – the British government in posts such as embassy staff and British Council teachers throughout the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.
Since then, the government has insisted that it has granted indefinite leave to remain to 6,300 people, yet those are individuals under the category of the first pathway who had already been settled in the UK.
Under the second pathway, according to Home Office figures from four months ago, only four individuals in total have been settled in the country. As for pathway three, no one at all has been resettled in the UK.
Responding to a query by MEMO, the UK Home Office stated that, since April 2021, it has relocated over 12,000 Afghans to the country. According to a Home Office spokesperson, “The UK has made one of the largest commitments to support Afghans of any country and, so far, we have brought almost 23,000 vulnerable people to safety, including thousands of people eligible for our Afghan relocation schemes.”
Yet those relocations were under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme launched prior to the Taliban takeover, and remain exactly that – relocations of which those 6,300 resettled refugees make up.
As for those remaining out of that number and those who came after the ACRS scheme, they reportedly continue to remain in hotels while the government fails to actually relocate them. According to reports, Afghan refugees have even been told by the government to look for private accommodation to rent through online sites.
“Supporting the resettlement of eligible Afghans remains a top priority and we continue to work with the UNHCR, like-minded partners and countries neighbouring Afghanistan to support their safe passage here”, the spokesperson added.
Indirectly addressing the issue of delays in resettlements, the Home Office merely emphasised that it is “important to design the scheme carefully and to ensure the support and services required by those being resettled are in place to help them integrate into society and rebuild their lives”.
One year after the ACRS scheme was launched, the British government has failed to resettle the 5,000 Afghan refugees it pledged it would, and is on a poor track to its stated aim to resettle 20,000 over the next few years – even those who actively assisted the UK and its diplomatic and military mission in Afghanistan over the past two decades.