MPs are stressing the need for urgent action to help prevent genocide in Afghanistan.
At a debate in Westminster Hall the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief called for Christians and other vulnerable communities to have immediate access to the UK's Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme.
The government announced the immigration scheme after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August, but it has only just been opened for applications.
The MPs say the scheme must process applications immediately to provide protection for Afghans who are at risk and prevent further tragedy.
Speaking at the debate, Jim Shannon MP highlighted the risk of genocide against the Afghan Hazara Muslim community. Hazara Muslim’s have long faced persecution in Afghanistan but since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan they have faced arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings. In recent months Hazara Muslim’s have also been targeted by ISIS-K, the terrorist group responsible for the bombings of Kabul Airport on 26th August during Operation Pitting. The group has stated its goal is to exterminate Shi’a Muslims, including Hazara Muslims, from Afghanistan.
Jim Shannon also highlighted the pressures faced by Christian converts, Ahmadi Muslims, Humanists and Atheists. He said these groups are some of the most at risk in Afghanistan and the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme must be open to these vulnerable communities.
Mr Shannon criticised what he called a lack of urgency from the government, particularly given the four-year timing of the scheme.
“Four years is too long to wait for vulnerable communities who are facing arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings, war crimes or even genocide.
“How is a four year long wait justifiable when it is a matter of life or death?”
Victoria Atkins MP, the Minister for Afghan Resettlement has announced that the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme would now open for applications, with the first applications expected in March 2022.
The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Fiona Bruce MP welcomed the news and said it was vital for vulnerable members of religious minority groups to be included in the scheme.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief is a cross-party group of more than 140 parliamentarians who believe that international freedom of religion or belief is a crucial human right.