Over the weekend the Prime Minister confirmed that the final British evacuation flight left Afghanistan – bringing home the last group of our Armed Forces and diplomatic staff who have orchestrated this massive movement of people across the globe so successfully.
Operation PITTING evacuated over 15,000 people on 165 flights since 14 August, including more than 2,200 children. The final airlift from Kabul also marked an end to our military operations after two decades.
Of course, as a Government, our first priority in Afghanistan remains ensuring that all those who wish to leave can do so safely. This week the Prime Minister sent a special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, to Doha to meet with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage for British nationals, and Afghans who’ve worked with us over the past 20 years.
The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), offers relocation to current and former employees such as embassy support staff, those in political and counter-terrorism roles, cultural advisors or interpreters who could face threats related to their occupation. The programme is not time-limited, and anyone facing imminent risk such as intimidation or threat to life is offered priority relocation regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served.
Locally I was proud that Chichester District Council was one of the first councils to offer their support for this programme, by both identifying housing and offering annual funding.
Nationally we’ve launched a cross-government initiative, Operation Warm Welcome, to help those relocating here rebuild their lives with stability and security. As part of this, at least £12 million is available to provide additional school places so children can be enrolled as soon as possible; £3 million of additional NHS funding so that Afghan arrivals can access healthcare and register with a GP once they leave quarantine; funding for up to 300 undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships at UK universities; free English language courses; £5 million funding for councils to support with housing; and a specific Minister for Afghan Resettlement.
Furthermore, those Afghans coming to the UK who worked closely with the British military and UK Government in Afghanistan, and risked their lives in doing so, will now receive indefinite leave to remain; giving them unrestricted rights to work. We owe a huge debt to the many Afghans who worked alongside us and this will give them and their families the support they need to rebuild their lives here in the UK.