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Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme

Volume 724: debated on Tuesday 13 December 2022

15. How many at-risk British Council and GardaWorld contractors and Chevening alumni in Afghanistan his Department has (a) assessed as eligible for and (b) resettled under the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme pathway 3 since 6 January 2022. (902772)

20. What humanitarian support his Department is providing to Afghan people (a) in and (b) fleeing Afghanistan. (902777)

The UK has already resettled more than 6,300 people through various resettlement schemes. In the first phase of the Afghan resettlement scheme pathway 3, we will offer up to 1,500 places. We have received 11,400 expressions of interest and we are working through those quickly. We have disbursed £228 million since April 2022, on top of £286 million in aid for Afghanistan last financial year.

The Foreign Secretary says that he is working quickly, yet we know that zero Afghans have been resettled under the ACRS. No wonder yesterday the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), admitted that we must do better when confronted with the staggering delay. I am in touch with Chevening alumni, for example, who have been living in fear of their lives for more than 16 months now. By the Government’s own admission, pathway 3 in its first year will help only 400 applicants and their families—a tiny number—out of more than 11,000. Will the Foreign Secretary and the Home Office urgently supercharge the scheme, increase the number of people working on it in the Department and, crucially, allow the 20,000 people Ministers say they want to help over five years to come now? They cannot wait for another four or five years; they are in fear of their lives now.

I have to correct the hon. Lady. She says that we have not made any resettlements under the ACRS. As I said in my answer, we have granted indefinite leave to remain to 6,300 eligible people. I think that she was making specific reference to pathway 3, which we are working on, but the House ought to recognise that we have already given indefinite leave to remain to more than 6,000 eligible people.

Last year my team and I heard countless harrowing, brutal stories of people and their families being murdered in Afghanistan, often while on the phone to my casework team. My team are still shocked and triggered by that awful experience; by the pictures they saw and the voicemails they heard. The FCDO really has to do a lot more to make sure that more people in Afghanistan do not die at the hands of the Taliban. I do not know whether I am going to correct my friend the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), but my understanding is that only four Afghans have been resettled under the ACRS. Many of my constituents have lost loved ones, so I want to know just two things from the Foreign Secretary: what support is being offered to Afghan refugees currently stuck in Pakistan, and what will he be doing to speak to Home Office colleagues and ensure that this absolute mess of resettling people is sorted out promptly?

Yet again, I have to correct the hon. Gentleman. He said that only four people had been settled under the ACRS. I say again, for the third time, that around 6,300 eligible people have been granted indefinite leave to remain under the referral pathways of the ACRS. We will of course continue to work both across HMG and with our international partners to resettle at-risk Afghans, and will particularly look at the individuals who have been supportive of the UK, and those particularly at risk because they are women, academics or members of the judiciary.