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Residents with family hiding from Taliban in Afghanistan question refugee schemes ‘double standards’

Residents with family hiding from the Taliban have questioned the difference in generosity between Ukrainian and Afghan refugee resettlement schemes.

Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to raise his constituents’ concerns over the Government’s ‘double standards.’

They compare the 27,000 Ukrainian refugees that have already taken up residence in the UK and the ‘begrudging’ commitment to resettle only 7,500 Afghans this year.

Barely two months after Russia’s invasion, another 86,000 Ukrainian refugees have been granted visas to live in the UK – while more than 200,000 Brits have signed up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

It launched about six weeks ago and allows people to offer accommodation to those fleeing the war-torn nation.

Though the Ukraine schemes have been plagued with problems, those who contacted Mr Western perceive that much greater efforts have been made to resettle Ukrainians than Afghans.

This is despite the UK’s involvement in the 20-year military intervention that ended with the Taliban unexpectedly storming to power last August after western troops withdrew.

In stark contrast to those for Ukrainians, the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) took five months to become operational, is open to a maximum of 20,000 refugees and is not yet open to anyone outside the UK.

Only 7,000 people have been resettled under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) which is mainly intended for those who assisted the British military with its operations in the country.

In total, more than 18,000 Afghans had been evacuated to the UK by early March – but many thousands have been forced to live in temporary hotel accommodation and await visas.

In the letter to Ms Patel, Mr Western wrote: “Many of the people I am trying to assist were involved with civic society in Afghanistan prior to the Taliban taking power – and are in danger as a result.

“They and their relatives have seen the UK Government’s response to the war in Ukraine, and they cannot help but feel they were not offered the same.

“Their experience was quite different, with strict criteria determining who could and who could not be evacuated – despite their own families’ willingness and ability to house and support them.

“I therefore urge you and your colleagues to capitalise on the British public’s obvious openness to accepting those fleeing war zones, to intensify efforts to create a route for relatives to join their families in the UK.”

As we reported, Mr Western’s office was supporting more than 20 families from Warwick and Leamington who wanted to accommodate their relatives stranded in Afghanistan.

Whitnash resident Shabnam Nishat has been fighting to get her mother safely to the UK ever since.

She was a municipal politician in Afghanistan and worked with the UN and international charities on women’s rights and child poverty.

She says the Taliban is hunting her mother, has beaten her brother within an inch of his life and her father died of a stroke without access to medical care.

“My mother calls me in the night saying that she can’t sleep because she fears someone is coming to kill her,” she said.

“Life in Afghanistan is particularly horrible for women like my mother.

“Her old colleague was recently taken by the Taliban, and no one has heard from her since.

“But when the Ukraine war started – they forget all about my country and my family.

“We desperately need help, but the Government does not care.

“We are not white or European, but we need help.

“People are all the same. We must help everyone.”