No 10 says ‘no targets’ for Afghan refugees ‘for the moment’ as evacuation from Kabul continues

Canada has pledged to resettle 20,000 Afghans threatened by Taliban

Defence secretary ‘didn’t know’ where foreign secretary was during Afghanistan crisis

No target has been set “for the moment” on the number of refugees from Afghanistan that could be granted asylum in Britain in the longer-term, No 10 has said.

It comes after Canada pledged to assist resettling 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban, but Downing Street stressed the government wanted to work with international leaders to agree a “unified approach”.

Asked whether the government had set a target for the number of refugees Britain may give sanctuary to, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We haven’t set targets for the moment. We want to talk to other international leaders on that to agree a way forward.”

Pressed on whether there were any plans in the longer term to make it easier for refugees from the country to come to Britain, they added: “We’ll be setting out detail in the coming days on our approach to wider asylum claims.

“We’ll be speaking to other world leaders about how we can take a unified approach. I think it’s clear that no one country has the capability to deal with this alone and we want to work together on that.”

Sharing a tweet from the Canadian government at the weekend, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped the UK “does similar and offers as much refuge for vulnerable Afghans as possible”.

The issue is likely to be highlighted on Wednesday as MPs debate the situation in the country following the Taliban’s capture of key Afghan cities, including the capital Kabul.

On Sunday, the government requested the one-day recall of Parliament on Wednesday amid intensifying criticism from backbench Conservative MPs. The request was rapidly granted by the speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Meanwhile, No 10 added that the prime minister would hold a third emergency Cobra meeting on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan on Monday afternoon, as the UK continues efforts to evacuate British citizens and Afghan people granted visas.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said 370 people had been evacuated on Saturday and Sunday, with “significant numbers” in the coming days.

“We have reinforced our capability with 600 military personnel, who are there to facilitate the removal of people with UK visas and British nationals.

“Hundreds everyday will be leaving on flights, but it is a fluid situation,” they said.

“We want to obviously continue to do this as long as we are able to do so and as long as this is safe to do so. You’ll appreciate the US has said they will be leaving at the end of the month — we’ll keep that under review.”

No 10 also confirmed reports over the weekend that the UK’s ambassador to Kabul, Sir Laurie Bristow, was still in the country helping to process visas at the airport, alongside diplomatic staff and officials from the Home Office.

They added: “There are people on the ground who can consider visa applications and there are some rules as regards to those who have family members who can be considered, I think, on a case-by-case basis but we have already removed a large number of Afghan nationals under the ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme and we’ll continue to do so.”

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