A programme to help Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban settle in the UK will open in January, the Government has announced.
The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which was first announced in August shortly after Taliban forces took control of the country’s capital Kabul, will provide assistance to up to 20,000 refugees.
The Government previously confirmed it would take as many as 5,000 in the first year, with more than 300 councils pledging to support families.
The ACRS will prioritise those who have assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan and extremely vulnerable people such as women and girls at risk and members of minority groups, the Home Office said.
Minister for Afghan Resettlement, Victoria Atkins, said: “We are committed to supporting everyone we have evacuated from Afghanistan to make a success of their new life in the UK.
“I’m very grateful to everyone who has stepped forward to help.
“The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme provides a safe and legal way for the most vulnerable and at-risk people from Afghanistan to come to the United Kingdom and rebuild their lives, as part of the New Plan for Immigration.
“Operation Warm Welcome is a huge national effort which could not succeed without the compassion and determination of our partners in local government, the private sector, voluntary organisations and the great British public.
“Every single one of them should be very proud.”
Ms Atkins is expected to set out further details of the scheme in January.
Around 1,500 people have already been helped to enter the UK since the evacuation, branded Operation Pitting, saw 10 times that number put on flights.
Some of those already evacuated, including women’s rights activists, journalists, and prosecutors, will be the first to be resettled under the ACRS.
All those resettled will be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, which includes the right to work and study, the Home Office said.
Local authorities have been given funding to support those starting a new life in the UK, with £20,520 per person provided over three years.
The Home Office said they will also receive extra funds for children entering education, to cover English language learning, and to cover healthcare.
The scheme, the Government said, is part of its New Plan for Immigration which aims to break the business model of criminal trafficking networks as well as remove more illegal immigrants and make the system fairer.