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Two leading LGBT+ organisations have called on the UK government to urgently prioritise the evacuation of LGBT+ people from Afghanistan as its rescue efforts draw to a close.
Stonewall and Rainbow Railroad issued a joint letter calling on prime minister Boris Johnson and foreign secretary Dominic Raab to bring queer Afghans to safety following reports that the UK’s evacuation programme will end on Friday (27 August).
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that no more people will be called to the airport, noting that its withdrawal was not influenced by a deadly terror attack that took place at Kabul airport.
However, Stonewall chief executive Nancy Kelley and Rainbow Railroad executive director Kimahli Powell jointly urged Johnson and Raab to evacuate LGBT+ people from Afghanistan, noting that many remain “at extreme risk of torture and death at the hands of the Taliban”.
“We have been working closely with your officials in London who have responded swiftly and sincerely to our concerns for the welfare of LGBTQI+ Afghans and the urgent need to create evacuation routes for them,” Kelley and Powell said in their letter.
“We provided a list compiled by Rainbow Railroad and Stonewall of LGBTQI+ Afghans who are within easy distance of Kabul airport.
⚠️Afghanistan crisis update ⚠️ WE NEED YOUR HELP. As a result of the letter we all shared 2 days ago, we’ve been able to work closely with the @FCDOGovUK. Together with @RainbowRailroad we provided a list of LGBTQI+ Afghans who are within reach of Kabul airport. pic.twitter.com/H97py2M0qF
— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) August 27, 2021
“With news breaking this morning that there is a matter of hours left in the UK evacuation programme, we want to support your team to evacuate as many people on this list as possible.”
Boris Johnson urged to charter planes to rescue LGBT+ people from Afghanistan
Kelley and Powell said they were “concerned” by the lack of available places on planes leaving Kabul. They urged Johnson and Raab to “private charter planes that will allow identified LGBTQI+ Afghans brave enough to make themselves known to make their way to safety in the UK”.
They added: “We are ready to assist in any way that we can. But we need urgent clarity about what the LGBTQI+ Afghans on our list should do today to make their way out of Kabul.”
The letter comes just days after Stonewall and Rainbow Migration called on the UK government to bring LGBT+ Afghans to safety by offering “targeted support”.
Both groups expressed “concern” that the UK government’s programme for Afghan refugees – which will see 5,000 asylum seekers brought to the UK in its first year – “does not come close to meeting the protection need”.
LGBT+ advocacy groups have expressed significant concern for queer people stuck in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has seized power in recent weeks.
The militant group is already putting in place its extreme interpretation of Sharia law, which could see LGBT+ people stoned to death or crushed by towering walls.
Countless other LGBT+ Afghans have spoken out about their fears for the future under Taliban rule. Two bisexual men – one who has already fled and one who remains in Afghanistan – spoke to PinkNews about the stark situation.
Basir, who is still in Afghanistan, said he fears he will be executed by the Taliban if his sexuality is discovered. Mehrshad, who has already fled to a European country, said watching the Taliban takeover was like watching “zombies… taking over the country”.
UK government has been accused of ‘hostile’ approach to asylum seekers
On Thursday, the LGBT Foundation, a Manchester-based charity, accused the UK government of being “hostile” to LGBT+ people who are seeking asylum.
The organisation hit out at the government’s Afghan resettlement program, saying it “does not adequately cover the scale of danger being faced by the community”.
“Even with a conservative estimate of five per cent of the national population, the LGBTQ+ Afghan population stands at a minimum of 1.9 million people (out of 38 million), with every single life explicitly at risk,” the LGBT Foundation said.
“The situation is being compounded by the UK government’s overall hostility to supporting LGBTQ+ individuals who seek asylum and refuge,” they added.
The Home Office told PinkNews: “The government has been clear that enforced removals to Afghanistan have been paused.
“We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”
PinkNews has contacted Downing Street and the Foreign Office for comment.