UK Government needs to ‘radically increase’ Afghan resettlement scheme, Amnesty International warns

The scale and pace of the UK Government’s Afghan resettlement scheme has essentially stalled and needs to be radically increased, Amnesty International has warned.

The organisation branded the treatment of those who have arrived in the UK since August last year “appalling”. Thousands of Afghan families are still languishing in overcrowded hotel rooms because of inadequate provision of suitable housing.

The Ministry of Defence says 9,000 Afghans have been resettled under its the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP). In addition to ARAP, the Government opened the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) in January this year, which will allow up to 20,000 refugees to settle in the UK. Five thousand of them were meant to be brought to the UK this year.

Despite initial public commitments to uphold the rights of women and girls, the Taliban has introduced policies since it took over the country last year which campaigners say systematically violate their basic rights and access to education and jobs.

Afghan internally displaced people, who fled to Yakawlang district of Bamyan province due to fighting between Taliban forces and a breakaway group led by one of their former commanders , gather outdoors in Duzdanchisma village.

Amnesty also wants to see the UK Government identify and use forms of leverage that may influence the Taliban without harming the Afghan people – such as targeted sanctions or travel bans imposed through a UN Security Council resolution – to end the Taliban’s violations of the rights of women and girls, and make clear what policy steps are required for the lifting of such measures.

Lydia Parker, Amnesty UK’s women’s rights programme director, said: “In the last year, women’s rights in Afghanistan have wound back 20 years. It’s heart-breaking to watch the extreme pace of the reversal of rights, protections and access which were so carefully put in place by brave women and girls who thought they were forging a new future.

“This is the same old Taliban, with the same old views and methods. We need to enforce a different path if there is any chance of preventing the total backslide of rights.

"It’s important that the issue of women and girls is at the forefront of any discussion and negotiations, but women need to be at the table, not just on the agenda. Ensuring that women are at the table for discussions is a very clear and measurable thing the UK can insist on with the Taliban.

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“The UK also needs to rapidly increase the pace and scale of its evacuation of survivors of gender-based violence and women’s rights defenders who need to flee to safety. We also need to see a huge improvement in the way Afghans who are brought here are treated with proper resourcing for housing. It’s not acceptable to simply fly people here and dump them in overcrowded hotels indefinitely.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it and, through the new Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, up to 20,000 people in need will be welcomed to the UK.

“The Afghan Citizens Resettlement 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, as well as vulnerable people, including women and girls and members of minority groups who are at risk.”

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