The SNP has called for the UK government to urgently introduce an ambitious Afghan Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to provide safe routes to the UK for refugees.
Speaking to BBC Good Morning Scotland, Ian Blackford MP (pictured) said the swift implementation of such a scheme should be a key focus of a four nations UK summit on Afghanistan refugee resettlement, and that it should emulate but be quicker than the 2014 Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), which provided increased funding per person to encourage local authorities to have refugees settle in their area and enabled them to live and work in the UK.
The SNP Westminster Leader said if the scheme was properly funded by the UK government 35,000 or more Afghan refugees could be given asylum in the UK on the basis of the equivalent population share supported from Syria under the VPRS (0.1%).
Since 2015, Scotland has taken in more than 3000 refugees under the Syrian VPRS scheme, across all 32 local authority areas – approximately 15% of the total UK intake of 20,319 Syrian refugees.
The scheme has seen Syrian refugees go on to become doctors, local business owners and take on other roles in local communities across Scotland.
Under the proposed scheme, the UK would work directly with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and international partners to ensure those in the greatest need could be identified and brought to the UK, including, for example, people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, women and children, and those who have worked with UK forces, including translators and others.
Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said:
“The harrowing scenes in Afghanistan must kick the UK government into urgent action.
“It is essential that the UK Government shows leadership and provides immediate safe routes for Afghan refugees, as other countries have already pledged to do.
“Scotland is ready and willing to do our bit – just as we did during the Syrian refugee crisis, which saw more than 3000 refugees come to live and work in communities across Scotland.
“The UK government must work with the devolved governments and urgently introduce an ambitious and generous Afghan Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, to identify those in the greatest need and bring them to the UK without delay.
“While it should draw inspiration from the Syrian resettlement scheme it is crucial that this scheme moves far more quickly – so vulnerable Afghans aren’t stuck waiting for up to five years just to get to safety and refuge.
“And focus must be on those who will be at most risk remaining in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, including women and children and those who have worked for and with the UK Government.
“If the scheme is properly funded by the UK government, 35,000 or more Afghan refugees could be given asylum in the UK if, for instance, you were to take the equivalent 0.1% population share of those supported from Syria.
“The world is watching and is horrified at the humanitarian crisis we are seeing unfold.
“The UK government bears its share of responsibility for the crisis in Afghanistan and it must not leave vulnerable Afghan people without the support they need.”