The UK could miss its opportunity to bring a group of “desperately needed” Afghan vets into the country due to Government inaction.
A group of 78 refugees, comprising veterinary staff and their dependents, has been stuck in Islamabad awaiting a response from the British Government after being rescued from Afghanistan in an operation, led by a UK vet, dubbed “Magic Carpet”.
Many of the vets within the group, who previously worked with organizations such as UK animal welfare charity Mayhew, have already been offered employment by UK practice groups, and in December last year, the RCVS and the BVA released an open letter in which they called on the Prime Minister to support the Magic Carpet group.
Now, the anonymous vet behind the operation – given the name Anne when she first spoke to the Vet Times in December – has said that it could be very likely that these vets go to Canada instead of the UK after repeated attempts to get a response from the Home Office failed.
Anne said: “It is difficult because the bottom line for us is that we have had no response from anyone in Government at all.
“Our hearts and clinics and doors are open to all refugees. The people in Ukraine do need to be extracted to safety, but it feels like we have forgotten the Afghans, and the Ethiopians, and the Syrians. Or maybe we haven’t forgotten them, we just haven’t done enough. “
She added: “Victoria Atkins is the minister for Afghan refugees. Four or five of us have emailed her several times over and have heard nothing. Literally nothing. Not even an acknowledgment. ”
Last year, in what was one of the largest privately funded humanitarian evacuation missions undertaken since the US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan, Operation Magic Carpet managed to rescue a total of 92 people – including 30 women and 32 children, 5 dogs and 1 cat. Since then, 14 of those rescued have been able to settle in France, bringing the group total down to 78.
On January 6, the Government launched its Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which claimed to prioritize those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights and freedom of speech, as well as vulnerable people, including women. and girls at risk.
Anne detailed how the group had been contacted by groups in Canada offering to sponsor incoming refugees, but felt it was a shame that the UK Government had done nothing, despite calls for them to take action amid the profession’s employment woes.
Anne added: “They could end up in Canada, they could end up in the Caribbean, they could end up in south-east Asia.
“I just really thought that with the support from the profession the Government would see sense. These people could be so easily absorbed into our country. We are massively short on workforce and people in the vet industry, and they are desperately needed.
Anne said: “We will get them anywhere they can forge a new life. It does not matter where they go so long as they have decent opportunities. But it is a travesty to not be bringing them into the UK.
“You can see that we are connected as a profession. We are connected by compassion also. It just seems nonsensical that they would not then be able to come to the UK.
“It’s incredibly frustrating when we are a profession on our knees and we are having to cut back, and cut back and cut back. I am now in a position where I am fighting for maybe one or two families to maybe go to the Caribbean.
“I have actually sat before and thought that these guys deserve refuge, but the UK does not deserve them.
“I think the frustration is that they are not even in the process. If we had ever heard anything back, if they were in the process, we would be okay. We would know what we are aiming for.
“To be honest, Canada is probably the best option for them because they have a much better set up for refugees. Because of this, I just think that maybe the UK does not deserve these good people. ”
The refugees are currently residing in Pakistan as they await a response, and are relying on charitable donations to buy food and other necessities. Donations can be made through the group’s GoFundMe page.
Vet Times contacted Victoria Atkins MP, but received no response.