'I'm so very happy... thank you UK': Afghan refugees land at Heathrow after evacuation

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports on the charter flights which could have been among the last to arrive in the UK from Afghanistan

"I am very happy to be here," said one relieved Afghan woman as she landed in Britain, "me and my family are safe here, thank you a lot UK".

Malalai, a journalism student in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over, was among dozens of refugees who landed at Heathrow Airport on Thursday.

Now in she's in the UK, the 20 year old just wants to "continue our dreams, continue our school, continue university".

It's something many women in Afghanistan will no longer be able to do now the Taliban is in power.

She arrived in the UK just hours before an explosion occurred outside Kabul airport, which resulted in a number of casualties.

'I am so very happy', Afghan refugee talks of her joy at arriving in the UK:

The attack demonstrates just how dangerous Afghanistan can be under Taliban rule, with its "sworn enemy", ISIS-K - a splinter group of Islamic State - keen to inflict damage on the new regime.

The explosion happened near the Abbey Gate of the airport where hundreds of Afghans and British citizens had converged, hoping to get on one of the last flights out of Kabul.

The Taliban had refuted claims by Western forces that an attack was imminent, demonstrating how little a grip the group has on security outside the airport.

Several children were among those to arrive in Heathrow after fleeing Afghanistan. Credit: PA

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said the attack in Kabul showed "the horror of Taliban rule".

The Tory, who served with the British Army in Afghanistan, said: "The attack on innocent people at Kabul airport simply trying to escape the horror of Taliban rule shows exactly who the group has brought with them.

"The pattern is well established - from Nigeria and Mali to Syria and Iraq, whenever Islamist extremists take power, terror follows."

An interpreter who had been greeting Afghans as they arrived at Heathrow Airport told of her "very difficult" experience listening to what people had gone through to escape the Taliban.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking. It's one of those things where you try to put your emotions, your personal emotions aside, but you can't," she said.

A British-Afghani man who flew to Afghanistan days ago in order to collect his siblings, said it felt "great" to be back in the UK.

He was able to bring home six of his siblings because of their young age, but said his parents were not allowed to come.

Interpreter on hearing the 'heartbreaking' tales of Afghan refugees who have arrived in the UK:

"Obviously they're not safe,' he said, adding: "I had no other choice. It was either that or nothing."

Had he not helped his sisters leave the country, the Taliban, he says, would have taken them away, "because that's what they do, marrying little kids with older people".

"Plus, they wouldn't have even had a proper education over there... the only thing they would be studying is religious studies."

He said he had "no words to explain" the "crazy" scenes he witnessed in Kabul, with Taliban fighters threatening people 'every day', adding how it was "big relief" to land in the UK.

'It took me a couple of days to get to Kabul'

Heathrow has been used as a refugee processing centre since Tuesday, with between five and six flights a day carrying more than 1,000 refugee passengers between them arriving at Terminal 4.

Other airports being used in the UK’s evacuation effort, known as Operation Pitting, include Birmingham and Brize Norton.

ITV News has heard from refugees at Birmingham Airport who waited for almost 30 hours after their plane landed from Afghanistan.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who was at Heathrow to greet arriving Afghans, defended the UK’s record on resettling Afghans after hearing of the difficulties refugees face travelling to Kabul airport.

Home Secretary Priti Patel met Malalai and her family at Heathrow Airport. Credit: PA

She added: “The emergency has concentrated the need, with the Taliban coming in but also the securitisation of the airport with security partners around the world, America in particular.

“Our relocation programme has been ongoing but quite frankly with the security picture changing, the intelligence picture changing, the Taliban being on the move and coming right on to Kabul has had an intensified effect.

“It is the intensification of that effect that basically has led to the evacuation and we are seeing thousands of people coming in every single day.”