MP backs campaign to safely evacuate family of Whitehaven dentist from Afghanistan

A Whitehaven-based dentist has launched an appeal, backed by Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, in the hope to bring his family to the UK from Afghanistan.

Suleyman Sakha and his wife Tahmina live in the west Cumbrian town and are concerned for the safety of their family in the Taliban-controlled country.

British and US troops are set to withdraw from Afghanistan in the wake of a terrorist attack that killed at least 90 people and injured almost 200 more, at Kabul airport, during evacuation progress on Thursday evening.

Suleyman said: "My sister-in-law is a medical student and she's not sure if she's going to progress her dream of being a doctor if they shut down the ability for women to be educated. They're really concerned for themselves and their family."

Suleyman and his wife fear for the safety of their family, especially in the climate after the August 31 deadline.

Tahmina's auntie, uncle, brother and sister are all currently living in Afghanistan and fear for their safety.

Suleyman is putting a case together to ensure they are among the 20,000 refugees who will be brought to the UK through the Afghanistan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme.

He said: "I would do anything for my family, you would, we all would."

And the family has called on MP for Copeland Trudy Harrison for help, asking when the Government's resettlement scheme will open. Mrs Harrison has previously helped Mrs Sakha with her application to live in the UK.

Mrs Harrison said: "I absolutely sympathise with the incredibly difficult situation Mr Sakha's family find themselves in, and I have contacted Mr Sakha to offer my assistance and to outline the options that are currently available.

"The most immediate route to evacuation is the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy; a pre-existing scheme to help Afghans who have assisted coalition forces and who face an immediate risk. If any members of Mr Sakha's family are eligible then I will assist them in this process.

"The route for those who don't qualify for this option is the Afghanistan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme aims to welcome 5,000 Afghans in year one, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term. The Government is working urgently to open this route and I will share details of the eligibility criteria and application process with Mr Sakha as soon as they become available."

In a letter to her family in Whitehaven, Tahmina's sister writes: "Please don't let them take away my future, my only hope is to request from the Government of the UK to protect me. With the rights and liberties that the UK provides equally for women I can fulfill my dream and become a doctor, I can prove women are capable of achieving great things if they are allowed and given a chance."

Thousands of desparate Afghans queue at Kabul airport for confirmation of departure Credit: AP

The Prime Minister said the “overwhelming majority” of eligible people have already been helped to flee the Taliban by the RAF and British forces would “keep going up until the last moment” to evacuate others despite the “barbaric” incident.

Earlier this week the US rejected calls from the UK to extend their deadline to pull troops out past August 31, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Thursday that US forces still intend to leave Afghanistan on that date.

Mr Johnson had vowed “we’ll do everything we can to get everybody else” before the deadline for British troops to depart in advance of the exit of US forces, after US President Joe Biden refused his request to extend the time frame.

But the PM conceded that although the “lion’s share” of eligible Afghans have been removed from the country, “there will be people who still need help”.