The government will resettle Afghan refugees who flee the Taliban under plans being modelled on the process that brought tens of thousands of Syrians to Britain.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, and Priti Patel, the home secretary, are creating a “bespoke resettlement scheme” to enable Afghans to claim asylum.
Ministers aim to devise a “world-leading” scheme inspired by the Syrian refugee resettlement drawn up by David Cameron in 2015. Syrians were brought from camps on the country’s borders straight to the UK. Up to February this year the scheme had resettled 20,319 refugees.
The Home Office is preparing again to establish a safe, legal and direct route separate from the usual asylum system. The scheme will be intended particularly for women and girls, sources say.
Under the Syrian scheme, the refugees were not granted full asylum status immediately, but given a five-year visa protection status that allowed them to apply for asylum later.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said yesterday that the UK was a “big-hearted nation” and was “looking very carefully at what kind of further commitment we might make”.
Raab, speaking after the third Cobra emergency committee meeting in four days, said that Britain would withhold aid and impose sanctions on Afghanistan unless the Taliban reformed.
He said the UK would “make very clear to the Taliban that we will hold them to account on their commitment to never allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for terror, to hold a more inclusive government and to protect the most essential human rights — including protecting the rights of women”.
Pressed on how the UK could exert pressure on the Taliban, Raab said: “Ultimately through working with our partners. Through everything from the sanctions that we can apply to the ODA [overseas aid] that we will hold back pending reform and a more inclusive government. I think there are levers.”
He added: “All of the financial means at our disposal will depend on the behaviour of the Taliban.” The West could have “a moderating influence” on the new regime, he said, although he accepted that the new government “clearly is not going to be to the values the UK, the West, the EU, the Americans believe in”.
Raab added: “We need to consolidate and try and stabilise the gains which are considerable that we’ve made with so much blood, sweat, tears and loss of life, over 20 years, and that’s what we’re committed to doing.”
Ministers have stepped up their efforts to resettle former Afghan interpreters in Britain under the scheme announced late last year. The government already has 2,000 offers of accommodation from 104 councils but needs more, especially larger properties as the average size of families being resettled is understood to be six people.
Raab at 5-star Crete hotel as Kabul was lost
Dominic Raab was at a five-star hotel on Crete when Kabul fell to the Taliban, it was reported last night (Henry Zeffman writes).
The foreign secretary was seen at the Amirandes Grecotel boutique resort on Sunday, as well as at the beach near by. He is thought to have flown back to the UK on Sunday night.
A British holidaymaker told The Daily Telegraph yesterday: “We were surprised to see Dominic Raab lounging around on the beach on the very day Kabul was falling into Taliban hands. I’m not political and obviously accept everyone is allowed a holiday. But the foreign secretary shouldn’t be on the beach on the very day Afghanistan is imploding. He was on the beach all day.”
The Foreign Office said it was “wholly inaccurate” to suggest that Raab had spent a long time at the beach, adding: “On Sunday, before returning to the UK, the foreign secretary attended Cobra, held several meetings with officials focused on evacuations, and called the Pakistani foreign minister.”