Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the UK ‘cannot accommodate 20,000 people all in one go’ amid discussions about the government’s resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees.
Thousands of Afghanistan residents have fled their homes in recent days following the takeover of the Taliban, travelling to the airport and attempting to catch flights out of the country to escape life under the insurgents’ rule.
In a bid to help those looking for a new home, the UK government has promised a new scheme that will see up to 20,000 Afghans offered a route to set up home in the UK, though only 5,000 people will be eligible for the scheme in the first year, with women, girls and others in need having priority.
Though up to 20,000 Afghans will be accommodated, according to the government, it will take a few years to reach that number.
The announcement has been met with backlash from critics who have questioned why only 5,000 people will benefit in the first year when the situation in Afghanistan is so desperate, but Patel defended the decision in an interview with Sky News.
She argued the UK simply ‘cannot accommodate 20,000 people all in one go’, but that the government is doing all it can to ‘work quickly on this’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will open a debate in the House of Commons about the situation in Afghanistan this morning, August 18, while Patel has also called on the international community to pull together to help the evacuation efforts.
She described the operation as ‘enormous’, adding: ‘We can’t do this on our own. No country, no government can do this on our own. We have to work together.’
Patel went on to say the government will consider a ‘distinction’ between refugees fleeing the Taliban takeover and those who have arrived on British shores in recent weeks, saying: ‘When it comes to others that have come through illegal migration routes, we will have to look at those cases in a way in which we do anyway through the asylum system.’
She continued: ‘When we see harrowing scenes, when we know there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding in front of us, it’s right that we create bespoke routes. There is a distinction between those illegal routes being trafficked through gangs and criminal activities.’
Following a conversation between Johnson and US President Joe Biden last night, a spokesperson said the leaders ‘resolved to continue working closely together on this in the days and weeks ahead to allow as many people as possible to leave the country.’
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