Cultural and human rights organizations urge UK Government to relocate at-risk Afghan citizens
PEN America's Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) and English PEN joined a group of 30 arts, media, and human rights organizations in signing an open letter to the United Kingdom's Home Secretary calling on the UK to open the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) immediately and do all it can to support the many Afghan citizens in urgent need of relocation.
The ACRS was announced on August 2021, pledging to provide support to 20,000 Afghan citizens, including 5,000 in the first year. More than four months later, the scheme has yet to open. Meanwhile, following the takeover of the Taliban in August 2021, thousands of Afghans remain at urgent need of relocation and face serious threats to their lives and livelihood in retaliation for their work as artists, activists, and journalists.
The following letter was sent to the UK Home Office on December 10, 2021.
Dear Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP;
The situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. Afghan citizens are currently some of the most vulnerable in the world, and a harsh winter is approaching. With the Taliban now firmly in control, there is an urgent need for governments around the world to ensure safe passage and support for those communities most at risk of persecution.
Despite heartening expressions of public support for the Afghan people, the UK Government’s response to the escalating crisis has been deeply disappointing. In particular, we are concerned that the proposed Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), announced on 18 August 2021, has yet to open, and that many of those at risk remain in Afghanistan.
Among those most at risk are actors, artists, journalists, musicians, writers, and other cultural actors. Without swift action, these voices – along with the rich and diverse cultural heritage they contribute to – will be irrevocably lost.
As a global champion of freedom of expression, we therefore request that the UK Government immediately:
- Open the ACRS with a transparent application process and clear criteria for applicants.
- Ensure provisions are in place for the long-term support of those relocated, including those who are already in the UK.
- Consider the target of 20,000 people as a starting point and ensure the commitment to maintain the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme separately to the ACRS is fulfilled.
- Expand eligibility for family reunification to ensure that those with family members in the UK can safely travel to join their loved ones.
We also call on those in positions of influence in the UK to protect those cultural actors at risk and safeguard the culture of Afghanistan for future generations
Afghan Solidarity Coalition
Amnesty International UK
Artists at Risk Connection
Birds’ Eye View
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Exiled Writers Ink
Index on Censorship
International Campaign for Afghanistan’s Musicians
International Civil Society Action Network
Irish PEN / PEN na hÉireann
National Centre for Writing
National Union of Journalists
Poetry Translation Centre
Refugee Trauma Initiative
Society of Authors
The Coalition for Women in Journalism
The Refugee Journalism Project
Wales PEN Cymru
Write Afghanistan, Untold Narratives CIC