Prince William told Afghan refugees he was ‘frustrated’ more people were not evacuated

Duke is said to have made comments while visiting refugees at Leeds hotel

Matt Mathers
Monday 03 January 2022 21:43
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Prince William privately told Afghan refugees they "couldn't be more welcome" in the UK as he expressed frustration at the failure to evacuate more people fleeing the Taliban, it has been reported.

The Duke of Cambridge is said to have made the comments during a visit to meet some of those who managed to get to the UK after escaping Kabul as it fell to the militants during the summer.

Two decades of British engagement in the South Asia country came to an end on 28 August as the final remaining military and diplomatic personnel left Kabul airport, ending the largest evacuation mission since WWII.

Operation Pitting airlifted more than 15,000 British nationals and allied personnel, thousands of Afghans among them, to safety in little under a fortnight.

The UK government also set up a resettlement scheme which committed to taking around 20,000 Afghans over the coming years.

But thousands of Afghans were left behind in the extraction, including interpreters who worked for the British army but were not allowed to come to the UK.

Thousands of those who have managed to resettle in the UK remain in temporary accommodation and have not yet been housed amid a shortage of social housing.

One refugee, who reportedly met Prince William on a visit to a hotel in Leeds last month, said the duke regretted that more people were not evacuated in August.

“He said he was frustrated at the withdrawal effort in August," the person told The Times. "He said he wished we could have brought more people to the UK.”

Another refugee said: “He asked us: ‘Why is it taking so long to get into permanent homes?’”. He also reportedly told refugees that he “wanted the wider country to be more supportive towards refugees”.

The Independent contacted Kensington Palace for comment.

The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) will open in January. It 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."

She added: “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.

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