In response to the recent government announcement (18 August 2021) of a resettlement programme for Afghan refugees, Women for Refugee Women states:

The government should increase the resettlement programme urgently

The government has proposed to take 5000 refugees this year, as part of a scheme to resettle 20,000 over a five year period. This is clearly inadequate given the scale of the crisis and the UK’s responsibility to the citizens of Afghanistan. Already, there are hundred of thousands of displaced Afghans within the country and in neighbouring countries. Women for Refugee Women has joined calls for the UK government to commit to an immediate resettlement programme for 20,000.

The government should do more to protect women at risk

The Home Secretary has stated that women and girls will be prioritised on this programme but has given no indication of how this will be achieved. For too long, women in Afghanistan have been given promises by the West that are then broken. Civil society organisations on the ground are already reporting violence and abuse by Taliban against women in public life, and are reporting that women are going into hiding. The UK government must work proactively with civil society organisations and individuals in Afghanistan and the region to identify women at risk and ensure they can journey to safety.

The government should ensure equal treatment for all refugees

The new Nationality and Borders Bill proposes measures that will punish those who seek asylum by irregular routes, outside of resettlement programmes. Many Afghans arrive already by irregular routes, and many more will now be following them. This is particularly the case given the small scale of the resettlement programme and the lack of other safe routes. Under the measures proposed in the Borders Bill, Afghan women who are forced to flee without official permission, and get into the back of a lorry or a small boat to get to safety, would be criminalised and have their asylum claim ruled inadmissible. The government should abandon its plan to distinguish between refugees based on how they travel to the UK.