Few could fail to be shocked and moved by what has gone on in Afghanistan over the last few days. The desperate scenes at Kabul airport are heart wrenching. Yesterday, politicians of all colours expressed their grave concern about the situation in parliament.
We note that the Home Office has announced a resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees, committing to bring 20,000 refugees here over five years (with 5,000 in the first year) prioritising women, girls and persecuted minorities. Whilst we welcome this initiative, which follows in the footsteps of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme for Syrian refugees, it is simply not enough and more support must be announced urgently.
As immigration lawyers we are being contacted by many Afghan clients, past and present, terrified for their family members still in Afghanistan and seeking urgent help from us for them. It is difficult to advise these clients what they and their relatives can do as things stand. We don’t know how the resettlement scheme will be implemented or how quickly. We anticipate that those accepted onto the scheme will need to have left Afghanistan which may be easier said than done. In any event, the numbers seeking protection will be far in excess of the 5,000 people committed to immediately.
UK visa application facilities inside Afghanistan have closed and the guidance on the Home Office website suggests that applications should be made at the nearest accessible visa application centre – realistically there will be no such thing for the majority of Afghans unable to flee the country.
We urge the government to put in place immediate and generous arrangements to enable those in danger in Afghanistan to come to the UK, and to commit to providing a route outside the immigration rules for people in the UK to bring their family members here from Afghanistan quickly.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, along with many other organisations, has written to the Home Secretary on this matter, read the letter here.
Find out more about our immigration services and the support our lawyers offer here.