In response to the ongoing escalation of events in Afghanistan, the UK government have announced a new resettlement scheme for Afghan citizens known as the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.
The scheme will offer those fleeing the crisis in Afghanistan the chance to set up life in the UK permanently; priority under the scheme will be given to women, girls and other minorities who are most at risk of human rights abuses.
The Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will welcome up to 5,000 Afghans to the UK who have been forced to flee the country, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term.
Who will be eligible?
The scheme will aim to resettle Afghan nationals most in need who have been forced to flee Afghanistan, including women, girls, children, religious minorities and those deemed to be particularly vulnerable under the current ruling ideology.
The scheme will prioritise:
- those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights and freedom of speech, or rule of law (for example, judges, women’s rights activists, academics, and journalists); and
- vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk, including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT.
- Those who were called forward by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, but who we were unable to evacuate before ceasing operations in Afghanistan, will also be guaranteed a place under the ACRS.
How can you apply to enter the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme?
The ACRS will be focused on those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and while the majority of people resettled will be Afghan, nationals of other countries (for example, in mixed nationality families) may be eligible to be resettled through the scheme.
The Government is currently in the process of working out how the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will work practically. It is anticipated that there will be challenges in delivering the scheme, given the complexity of the current situation in Afghanistan.
At present applications are only currently set to be processed once Afghanisation nationals have reached a safe neighbouring country.
Will those eligible be able to bring family?
Spouses, partners, and dependent children under the age of 18 of identified eligible individuals will be eligible for the scheme. Other family members may be resettled in exceptional circumstances.
When will the route open?
There is no set date for when the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will open. The Home Office Guidance on the route states that the Government is working urgently to open this for the most vulnerable Afghan citizens. For up-to-date information on the route, please check back in on this page, which will be updated in accordance with home office guidance.
What will the security checks be for applicants?
This scheme will not compromise the vital security checks that are required to keep the UK safe. Every person coming to the UK as part of the resettlement scheme and on evacuation flights from Afghanistan will be subject to the same strict security checks to make sure that the UK’s national security is protected, and this will continue.
Will people who come to the UK via irregular migrant routes, such as small boats, be eligible to apply to the scheme?
Eligibility for this route will be for those in the region who are in need of assistance, including women, girls and children at risk given their particular vulnerability.
Those who arrive to the UK via irregular routes are currently able to apply for asylum.
- Under the Nationality and Borders Bill, it will become a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally without permission to be here.
- The government’s position is still that people should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making dangerous crossings across the Channel.
How is the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme different from ARAP?
The Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme aims to resettle Afghan nationals who have been displaced from their homes due to the current crisis and will prioritise women, girls, children and those most in need, who are likely to face human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban.
The new route is separate from, and in addition to, the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which offers any current or former locally employed staff who are assessed to be under serious threat to life priority relocation to the UK.
Support once people arrive
Is work taking place to ensure people resettled have the support they need once they arrive?
- Work is underway to ensure the Afghans citizens, their families and those at highest risk who have been evacuated, are supported as they now rebuild their lives in the UK.
- The plans, dubbed ‘Operation Warm Welcome’, will be overseen by Victoria Atkins as the new Minister for Afghan Resettlement.
- The support provided will be similar to the commitments in the Syrian Resettlement Programme and ensure that those who worked closely with the British military and UK Government in Afghanistan, and risked their lives in doing so, get the vital health, education, support into employment and accommodation they need to fully integrate into society.
- This includes the creation of a central portal where people, organisations and businesses can register their offer of support, be it volunteering, a job opportunity, professional skills to help with integration and deal with trauma or donations of items like clothes and toys. Free English language courses will also be provided in recognition that many of the dependents of former staff and Afghan translators may need this.