British forces evacuate Afghans eligible for relocation

British forces evacuate dozens of Afghans, UK nationals eligible for relocation
3 min read
24 October, 2021
The UK government said the two flights mark 'the next chapter' of evacuations to ensure ‘as many routes as possible remain open’ to British nationals and Afghans eligible for relocation.
The UK government said further flights are due to arrive in the UK in the coming weeks with more Afghans on board [source: Getty]

The British Air Force evacuated 102 people who fled Afghanistan for a neighbouring country to the UK, according to a government statement published on Saturday. 

The airlifts took place across two flights and carried British nationals as well as Afghans who used to work or still work for UK forces deemed "at serious risk of threat to life". 

The flights marked the first military relocation of "eligible Afghans" and British nationals since the end of UK army evacuation efforts from Kabul in August. 

"We are determined to do right by those who supported our Armed Forces for so many years and others who are at risk," said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. 

"These flights mark the beginning of what will be an enduring effort to relocate and support those who need our help," he added. 

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Further flights transporting Afghans eligible for relocation under the UK government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) will take place in the coming weeks. 

In the two weeks after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, Britain evacuated more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan. 

The last UK military flight left the city on August 28, a few days ahead of US President Joe Biden's August 31 deadline to end America’s military operations in the country. 

Since then repatriation flights and individual relocations have taken place, but there have been no military relocations until now. 

It is estimated that hundreds of Afghans who worked with British forces as well as families who are eligible for relocation under the government’s second scheme the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme (ACRS) are still in the country. 

Those who managed to make it to the UK on the two flights will be supported "to begin their lives... under Operation Warm Welcome", according to a government statement on Saturday. 

Operation Warm Welcome was launched by Boris Johnson's Conservative party to provide the necessary assistance to Afghans arriving on British shores, including indefinite leave to remain as well as funding for schooling and healthcare. 

The scheme has come under fire from frontline charities and in UK media for its inconsistencies and inadequacies, with around 7,000 Afghans stuck in hotels because permanent accommodation cannot be found.  It has been reported that families could be housed in hotel rooms for up to a year. 

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in a lightning offensive over the summer that ended in a rapid takeover of Kabul.

Despite several reports of the insurgent's quick gains, several ministers in Western countries, like the UK, said they were surprised by the speed of the takeover, resulting in a hurried and chaotic evacuation at Kabul airport in late August.