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RAF airlifts 102 people who had fled Afghanistan to UK

The Guardian logo The Guardian 23/10/2021 Miranda Bryant

The RAF has airlifted more than 100 people who had left Afghanistan and were in a neighbouring third country to the UK, the government has announced.

The Ministry of Defence said the two flights, carrying 102 people, had landed safely in the UK, where they will receive support to begin their lives in Britain.

Although repatriation flights and individual relocations have been running since the end of August, this marked the first military relocation of eligible Afghans and British nationals since the end of the Kabul evacuation.

Among those airlifted were vulnerable Afghans who come under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy, a UK government scheme for former locally employed staff, and British nationals.

More flights are scheduled to arrive in the UK in the coming weeks.

The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said the flights “mark the beginning of what will be an enduring effort to relocate and support those who need our help”.

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“In August we worked tirelessly to airlift more than 15,000 vulnerable Afghans and British nationals from Kabul to the UK,” he said.

“As I made clear at the time, our commitment to the Afghan people did not end there. We are determined to do right by those who supported our armed forces for so many years and others who are at risk.”

The MoD said the UK was working with international partners to make sure that “as many routes as possible” are available for those who are eligible and that the flights signify the start of “the next chapter of that effort”.

Under “operation warm welcome”, the MoD said the newly arrived Afghan people would be processed and supported by the Home Office and granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK with funding allocated for schooling and healthcare.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has helped nearly 100 British nationals to leave Afghanistan on Qatari flights since the UK’s last Kabul evacuation in August.

It comes as Human Rights Watch warned that thousands of people in north and south Afghanistan have been forced from their homes and land by Taliban officials, breaking international law under which collective punishment is illegal.

Many of the people targeted were members of the Shia Hazara community and others had connections to the former Afghan government. HRW said that property and land seized in this way is often redistributed to Taliban supporters.


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