Afghan refugees will get lessons in Britishness

Afghan refugees will get lessons in Britishness: Migrants will learn English, British values and politics under new scheme

  • Ministers want to emulate schemes in countries such as France and Germany
  • In Europe refugees are giving 400-plus hours of language and culture lessons 
  • Robert Jenrick, communities secretary: ‘We want to warmly welcome and support Afghan families’

Afghan refugees will be taught about British values, culture and civic duties to help them integrate into society, it was revealed today.

Ministers are said to want to emulate schemes in countries such as France and Germany where hours of language classes are given to newcomers.

A comprehensive programme would replace the existing patchwork of policies to teach English language skills and British values, Government sources told The Times, as well as the reversal of cuts to language classes.

The UK has evacuated more than 17,000 people from Afghanistan, including more than 5,000 Britons. 

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said: ‘We’re looking at how can we have an enhanced level of English-language training, how can we ensure people will get into the workplace as quickly as possible and how can we comprehensively introduce people to British culture, civic and political life, increasing people’s knowledge and understanding of the country and its values, so they can contribute fully to British life.’

He added: ‘We want to warmly welcome and support Afghan families, particularly those who stood shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces, while being clear that the UK is a country with its own values and rules.’

Malalai Hussiny (wearing green headscarf), a refugee from Afghanistan who arrived on a evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport with her daughter will be among those helped to learn English and about British culture

Thousands of people are going to be resettled in Britain after the Taliban swept back into power after the withdrawal of western troops

Prince William ensured the safe passage of a trapped Afghan soldier who he knew from Sandhurst to the UK after hearing of his plight.

The Duke of Cambridge, 39, decided to intervene after hearing that the officer, who he met during his training at the military academy in Berkshire, was trapped in Kabul with his family after the Taliban seized power earlier this month.

The royal’s equerry naval officer Rob Dixon was able to contact personnel in the region and the former cadet, who is thought to have served in the Afghan national army, and his relatives were permitted to board a flight at Kabul airport to Britain. 

The duke’s intervention comes as Britain and America officially ended their military presence in Afghanistan this week – leaving behind hundreds of citizens and Afghan allies desperate to flee the country.  

The officer in Afghanistan had previously worked closely with British troops and his role had left him and his family, which included women and children, in a vulnerable position within the country, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Following his rescue, former paratrooper Major Andrew Fox, said the duke’s intervention was ‘fully in line with what we get taught in the Army in terms of values’.

He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘I myself got 2 Para to rush out into the crowd and grab someone for me.  

‘It’s fully in line with what we get taught in the Army in terms of values, loyalty, respect for others, all that good stuff. We’re trained to help where we can.

‘The situation was so chaotic and was so, frankly, mismanaged, that people would do whatever they could to get out.’ 

In France, people settling in the country get 400 hours of free French-language lessons as well as civic training classes. Young migrants get free trips to museums and galleries. Germany offers 600 hours of ‘civic orientation’ lessons.

Thousands of Afghans who risked their lives to help British forces will be allowed to live and work indefinitely in the UK.

The Home Office has said the coveted status would be granted immediately – and automatically – to around 10,000 refugees.

It will allow them to work and enrol their children in school as they try to build a new life here. The decision fast-tracks a process that can take years and with only a limited right to remain.

Boris Johnson said the policy reflected the ‘immense debt’ owed to translators and others who had helped the UK military during the 20-year engagement.

A Whitehall source said that the package, codenamed Operation Warm Welcome, was ‘the least we could do’ following the chaotic and bloody withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Ministers are still however under pressure to do more to help hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Afghans now in hiding from Taliban reprisals for helping British troops. Its leaders have claimed they will not seek revenge but militants yesterday raided the homes of former translators in Kabul.

Former interpreters told the Mail they were living in fear for their lives after failing to secure a place among the 10,000 flown to Britain.

A 35-year-old who has qualified for relocation to the UK said: ‘No one believes the Taliban’s words of forgiveness. We helped the British kill and capture their men.

‘We provided the intelligence to fight against them. We questioned their captured and injured – so it is simple that they will want revenge.’

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday denied reports that more than 7,000 Afghans with links to UK forces had been left behind, but was unable to provide another figure.

He said the number of British citizens left in Afghanistan was in ‘the low hundreds’, following the evacuation of more than 15,000 people in the second half of August.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said around 300 Afghans granted refuge in the UK had been left behind, along with 700 relatives.

Normally, asylum seekers are banned from working while their claims are assessed. They are entitled to minimal financial support if they would ‘otherwise be destitute’.

Permission to work may be granted only if their claim has not been processed within a year through no fault of their own. If they are eventually granted leave to remain it is typically capped at five years.

The Prime Minister said that the decision by the US to remove its air cover for the Afghan army meant ‘things did go faster’ and allowed the Islanic extremists to catch the West on the hop.

The UK completed its withdrawal from Kabul at the weekend with the US mission coming to a close earlier this week

By contrast, those who have served British forces will immediately be granted indefinite leave to remain, which brings with it the right to work and the option to apply for British citizenship.

Boris Johnson blames US decision to withdraw air power for speed of Taliban victory over Afghan forces as he admits it’s been clear ‘for many months’ that Islamist takeover could happen quickly 

Boris Johnson has leveled blame for the swift Taliban victory in Afghanistan at the feet of Joe Biden and US forces.

The Prime Minister said that the decision by the US to remove its air cover for the Afghan army meant ‘things did go faster’ and allowed the Islamic extremists to catch the West on the hop.

He spoke as he visited soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade, which took part in the UK airlift from Kabul, at its base in Colchester, Essex. 

It came amid a furious cabinet row between Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about how much ministers were told about the possible collapse before it happened.

Mr Johnson said: ‘It’s been clear for many months that the situation could go very fast and that has been in part of the intelligence briefings. 

‘There have also been suggestions, as you know, that the Afghan national defence force might hold on for longer.

‘But logically you can see what happens: Once people in the Afghan Army felt they were no longer going to be getting the American air cover then the logic for them became really to end their resistance and so things did go faster.’

Mr Johnson’s critique of the US came after Mr Wallace had earlier suggested that the abrupt abandonment of Afghanistan and thousands of allies left on the ground, meant America  was no longer a superpower.

Those eligible under the Afghanistan Relocations and Assistance Policy will also be eligible for immediate access to NHS services.

Councils have been offered a modest £5million to help with housing. Officials said they were working with more than 100 town halls and had so far found accommodation for more than 2,000 people.

Councils will be given an extra £12million to provide additional school places for Afghan children and further funding will be provided to create 300 university places.

Arrivals from Afghanistan will also be offered the Covid vaccine and given access to a portal where members of the public will be able to share offers of work and housing and make donations.

A Whitehall source last night told the Mail the package was ‘likely’ to be extended to 20,000 Afghans expected to come under a wider resettlement scheme – but this has not been decided.

In scenes likened to those described in the Bible, the exodus of refugees avoided Taliban checkpoints by heading to the desolate Nimruz region, before crossing into Pakistan near the border with Iran.

Many, with the help of people smugglers in Iran, are expected to head to Turkey where they can then plan routes to mainland Europe or Britain. Thousands of Afghans have already gathered at the main border crossings with Pakistan and Iran, despite the former insisting only those with visas or valid documents can enter.

Hundreds of thousands are believed to have crossed the Pakistan border at Spin Boldak. One Afghan said: ‘Thousands were there. I saw women heavily pregnant, babies, old men. I remember the sound of crying babies echoing across the mountains.’

It came as Taliban fighters brazenly paraded some of the £62 billion worth of US military hardware they have seized. In Kandahar, their spiritual home, militia draped a convoy of £370,000 military vehicles in Taliban flags in scenes likely to further embarrass US President Joe Biden.

The parade even included a fly-past of a £5million Black Hawk chopper – complete with Taliban flag – just hours after a Pentagon spokesman dismissed the Taliban’s capabilities, insisting: ‘They can inspect all they want… they can’t operate them.’

Boris Johnson insisted last night that it had been ‘clear for many months’ that the Taliban could seize power quickly in Afghanistan – just hours after Dominic Raab suggested the opposite.

The Foreign Secretary told reporters that no one in government could have predicted the speed of the Taliban’s victory, adding that the intelligence claimed Kabul would not fall in August.

But visiting a military barracks in Essex, the Prime Minister said: ‘I think it’s been clear for many months that the situation could go very fast and that’s been part of the intelligence briefing.’

His words appeared to support the position of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who said in an interview on Wednesday that he knew ‘the game was up’ in Afghanistan in July – a month before Kabul fell.

Mr Johnson added: ‘There have also been suggestions that the Afghan national defence force might hold on for longer. But logically you can see what happened.

‘Once the Afghan army felt that they were no longer going to be getting that American air cover, then I think the logic for them became really to end their resistance – and so things did go faster.’

The Prime Minister, who has been away with family in the West Country, made the comments during a visit to Merville Barracks in Colchester, where he met members of 16 Air Assault Brigade, who helped with the evacuation from Kabul.

The apparent barb came hours after Mr Raab reopened his public feud with the Defence Secretary over the handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary has faced criticism for taking a luxury holiday to Crete as the Taliban advanced on Kabul last month – despite his own department warning the situation could deteriorate quickly.

Dominic Raab arrived in Doha, Qatar, in the early hours of this morning as he stepped up efforts to help British allies left behind in Afghanistan

Mr Wallace’s comments this week, made in an interview with The Spectator, appeared to pile further pressure on the beleaguered Foreign Secretary.

But, speaking on a visit to Qatar, Mr Raab rejected the Defence Secretary’s assessment, suggesting that no one in Government could have predicted the speed of the Taliban victory.

UK’s ex-ambassador to Afghanistan savages Foreign Office over diplomatic efforts

Britain’s former representative in Kabul today warned the UK is ‘playing catch up’ on diplomatic efforts in the region around Afghanistan. 

Sir Nick Kay, the ex-UK ambassador to Afghanistan, said the diplomatic ‘wheels’ are now ‘turning rapidly’ following the Taliban takeover. 

But he suggested Britain had been slow off the mark in speaking to third countries as ministers and officials now scramble to help people escape Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US and UK forces.  

Sir Nick told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘I think the important thing is now that the wheels are clearly turning and turning rapidly and it is good that the Foreign Secretary is out and engaging face to face with these countries in the region. 

‘There isn’t, obviously, any time to lose at all and to some extent we are, yes, playing catch up.’ 

He told reporters: ‘Ben and I were taking the same assessment throughout until very late.

‘The central assessment had been that Kabul wouldn’t fall until after the end of August, [after] the evacuation of allied troops.’

After talks in Qatar yesterday, Mr Raab said he was hopeful evacuations for the remaining UK citizens and Afghan allies could continue from Hamid Karzai airport ‘in the near future’.

Mr Raab told MPs this week that the number of British citizens left in the country numbered in ‘the low hundreds’ after the RAF’s last civilian airlift on Saturday.

He said he could not give an accurate estimate for the number of Afghans left with the right to come to the UK – but it is thought to total several thousand.

He also defended the decision to talk to the Taliban, saying the West had to ‘adjust to the new reality’ of the group being in power. But he added that the UK would not formally recognise the Taliban government.

The group yesterday called China their ‘most important partner’, claiming Beijing was ‘ready to invest in and reconstruct’ Afghanistan and will maintain its embassy in Kabul. Speaking during his visit, Mr Raab added he was using the trip to build a coalition which would ‘exert the maximum moderating influence’.

He is expected to visit a number of Afghanistan’s neighbours in the coming days – including Pakistan – to seek help in extracting remaining UK citizens. It came as the Government announced a £30million package, which will help neighbouring countries deal with an expected influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

However, Mr Raab has faced criticism for failing to engage with neighbouring countries earlier. Sir Nick Kay, former British ambassador to Afghanistan, said: ‘We are playing catch up.’

And, according to an Ipsos-Mori poll, only 15 per cent of voters felt that Mr Raab had done a good job on Afghanistan. This was marginally better than US President Joe Biden – who scored a dismal 12 per cent – and was eight points lower than Mr Johnson.

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