Afghanistan crisis: Boris Johnson prepares to announce 'bespoke' Afghan resettlement scheme as SNP calls for four-nations summit
The move could see the UK Government act on calls from campaigners to international leaders for a response to the refugee crisis that is likely to follow the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan.
Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai – who was shot in the head by the extremist group in 2012 after enraging them with her campaign for girls’ schooling – became the latest high-profile figure to push for all countries to open their borders to Afghan refugees amid the Taliban resurgence.
No 10 said the Prime Minister would give more information about the resettlement scheme in coming days, with the scheme anticipated to be focused on helping those Afghans most in need, particularly women and girls.
The push comes as the SNP called for a four-nations summit with the UK Government to discuss refugee resettlement amid the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
British armed forces numbers in Afghanistan are to be bolstered to 900 as the push to get UK nationals and selected Afghans out of the country intensified since the Taliban took Kabul.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The UK team in Afghanistan is working around the clock in incredibly difficult circumstances to help British nationals and as many others as we can get to safety as soon as possible.
“At the same time, we are bringing together the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis emerging in Afghanistan – it’s in everyone’s interest not to let Afghanistan fail.
“That means providing whatever support we can to the Afghan people who have worked so hard to make the country a better place over the last twenty years and who are now in need of our help.”
Officials said Mr Johnson was agitating for high-level international discussions on the unfolding crisis, including using the UK’s G7 presidency to call a virtual meeting in the “coming days”.
He wants G7 leaders to focus on ensuring Afghanistan does not once again become a source of international terrorist threats, No.10 said.
There will also be an effort to secure support for the people of Afghanistan, including through increased humanitarian assistance and agreeing expectations of whatever government emerges in Afghanistan.
Downing Street wants the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – which, as well as the UK, includes the US, China, France and Russia – to meet following the full gathering that took place on Monday.
Following the Prime Minister’s phone call with French president Emmanuel Macron, in which he raised the prospect of a G7 meeting, the UK and France are expected to work together on a joint UNSC resolution.
The Scottish Greens had separately called for the Scottish Government to use its Humanitarian Emergency Fund to help fleeing Afghans who are leaving the country as the Taliban continues to advance.
Soldiers from the militia group entered Kabul on Sunday, with the Afghani president Ashraf Ghani having fled the country, reportedly to Uzbekistan.
Labelling the ongoing collapse of the regime into the hands of the Taliban as “one of the biggest foreign policy failures” of modern times, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford attacked the Conservatives.
Calling earlier on Monday for the UK Government to work with the devolved nations to open safe routes for resettlement of those escaping the country, Mr Blackford said the country should take in more refugees as the crisis escalates.
He said: “The appalling situation in Afghanistan is one of the biggest foreign policy failures in modern times – and the UK Government bears its share of responsibility.
"Scotland stands ready to play its full part in resettling refugees and tackling the humanitarian crisis. It is vital that the UK Government works with the devolved governments and shows leadership, including by opening our doors and providing safe routes for resettlement.
"Canada has already committed to resettle more than 20,000 vulnerable Afghans, including women leaders, human rights workers and reporters. There is no question that the UK must also commit to leadership on this scale.
"The Tory government's cuts to international aid must be reversed and the UK must play a leading role in funding and supporting humanitarian efforts to save lives, promote peace and protect human rights, especially those of women and girls, with a specific fund dedicated to the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis.
"The immediate priority must be to do everything we can to protect lives, but in time there must also be a chance to review how the UK's involvement in Afghanistan went so badly wrong. The UK Government must commit to a future judge-led inquiry into the war in Afghanistan to ensure full scrutiny, accountability and lessons learned."
The comments came as the Scottish Greens called for funds to be committed to help those fleeing the war-torn country.
In 2016 the Humanitarian Emergency Fund was established to help reduce the threat to life and as recently as February made £340,000 available to support vulnerable people affected by the conflict in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.
In October last year, £100,000 was given the Save the Children from the fund to help those affected by severe flooding in Niger, and £300,000 was made available in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut in September last year.
Writing to Angus Roberston, the external affairs secretary, Maggie Chapman and Ross Greer said the SNP Government should do “all it can”.
Ms Chapman said: “The pictures and stories coming out of Afghanistan are heart-breaking. We must open our hearts and our doors to those who need safety, and the Scottish Greens endorse the First Minister’s call for the UK Government should accept more refugees.
“It’s clear the Scottish Government must do all it can to help these people who are fleeing for their lives.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are deeply concerned about the risks posed to civilian lives.
“We urgently call on the UK Government and international community to consider urgently how civilians, especially women, girls and those seeking refuge, can be protected. We are in discussions with our humanitarian partners about what more can be done to support those in need.”
“As we did with refugees from Syria, the Scottish Government is willing to play our full part and do all we can to help those in peril.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.