Operation Warm Welcome: How will Afghans be able to rebuild their lives in the UK?

Afghan evacuees arrive at Brize Norton. Credit: PA

Afghan refugees who have fled their home following the Taliban's devastating takeover will be resettled in the UK under a scheme dubbed "Operation Warm Welcome".

Hundreds of relieved but traumatised Afghans arrived into UK airports last week, unsure of what lies ahead of them in a country they now have to accept is their new home.

The government has promised to take in up to 20,000 Afghans in the coming years, with around 5,000 expected to be re-homed by the end of 2021.

Many who will be welcomed to Britain first include Afghan staff who helped the UK and US during the ongoing conflict - but how exactly will the scheme work?

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

– How will the scheme work?

The government said the scheme is part of efforts to “ensure that those who worked closely with the British military and UK government in Afghanistan, and risked their lives in doing so, get the vital health, education, support into employment and accommodation they need to fully integrate into society.”

While further details are yet to be revealed, so far the government has said the support provided will be similar to that offered as part of the previous established Syrian Resettlement Programme.

This will include setting up a “central portal” where offers of support, such as jobs and donations of clothing and toys, can be registered.

Free English language courses will also be provided.

It comes after £5 million was given to councils to provide housing support, and vaccinations were offered to everyone arriving as well as access to mental health and trauma support.

Victoria Atkins, who has been appointed the new Minister for Afghan Resettlement, will oversee the scheme.

– How many people could come to the UK as a result?

Some 5,000 former Afghan staff and their family members are expected to be relocated to the UK by the end of this year under what is known as the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap).

This offers priority relocation to the UK for current or former locally employed staff who have been assessed to be under serious threat to life.

– What else has the government promised to do?

It has pledged to take up to 20,000 Afghan refugees, with as many as 5,000 in the first year, who were forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban under what the Home Office claims will be “one of the most generous” resettlement schemes in the UK’s history.

Under the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, they will be offered the chance to set up life in the UK permanently.

Priority will be given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities, who are most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban, the Home Office said.

– How will it work in practice?

Detail is limited as the plans are still being developed.

But the project is being modelled on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), which took place over a seven-year period, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which facilitates resettlement.

The government is expected to work with devolved administrations and councils to ensure Afghans have accommodation and access to services.

Officials insist national security will not be compromised and anyone being processed through the scheme will still need to pass strict checks.

– Did the Syrian resettlement scheme work?

Charities and officials alike generally regard the Syrian resettlement scheme as a success.

A total of 20,080 Syrian refugees have started a new life in the UK since 2015 as a result, according to figures published earlier this year.

Those who were escaping conflict in Syria were assisted by the government as part of its work with the UNHCR to identify people, including women and children, at risk and victims of torture.

They were granted refugee status with full rights to live and work, and provided with housing and support, and help to integrate into their new communities.

– What if more help is needed?

The government said it will keep the resettlement scheme under review, with Home Secretary Priti Patel suggesting the programme could be expanded if needed and hinting that the number admitted in the first year could double.