New UK minister appointed to resettle Afghans


Victoria Atkins. — Reuters file
Victoria Atkins. — Reuters file

London - Victoria Atkins will oversee the initiative dubbed ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ that will ensure support for the Afghans

By Prasun Sonwalkar

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Published: Sun 29 Aug 2021, 8:27 PM

The Boris Johnson government on Sunday appointed Victoria Atkins as the new Minister for Afghan Resettlement, while coordinated efforts were initiated to support the thousands of Afghans who were brought to the United Kingdom in recent days.

Atkins, who was a junior minister in the Home Office, will oversee the government-wide initiative dubbed ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ that will ensure support for the Afghans who stood side by side with British forces in conflict, their families and those at highest risk.

Several councils across the UK have been approached to resettle the Afghans, while some civil society groups have been overwhelmed with offers from members of the public to support and provide accommodation to the Afghans.

There are concerns that many more who previously helped British forces had been left behind in Afghanistan, as Britain ended its presence in the country this week.

Officials said that support to the Afghans will be similar to the commitments made in the Syrian Resettlement Programme and ensure that those who worked closely with the British military and the 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.

This includes the creation of a central portal where people, organisations and businesses can register their offer of support, be it volunteering, a job opportunity, professional skills to help with integration and deal with trauma or donations of items like clothes and toys.

Free English language courses will also be provided in recognition that many of the dependents of former staff and Afghan translators may need this.

Johnson said: “For those who have left their homes with no more than a small bag of belongings, and in fear for their lives, coming to the UK will no doubt have been a daunting experience, but also one of hope for the future”.

“I am determined that we welcome them with open arms and that my government puts in place the support they need to rebuild their lives. We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us, at great risk to themselves. We owe them, and their families, a huge debt”, he added.

Officials added that full details will be set out next week and build on the commitments already made. These include £5 million for local councils to provide housing support, an offer of a vaccine for everyone on arrival and access to rapid mental well-being and trauma support.

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