The first-ever group of 29 LGBT+ people from Afghanistan arrived in the United Kingdom as a result of interventions from UK foreign minister Liz Truss and gay rights organisations, news agency Reuters reported on Saturday.
“The first group of LGBT Afghans to be helped by the UK Government to leave Afghanistan since the end of the evacuation arrived in Britain on Friday to start their new lives,” according to an official statement on Saturday.
The group includes students and activists who have stood up for the equality of the LGBT+ community in the war-ravaged country, the statement added.
Since the Taliban took charge of Afghanistan in August, thousands of civilians, including women, those from the LGBT+ community and officials from the previous administration have tried to flee the country, with several of them unable to board the evacuation flights of international governments.
During the Islamic Emirate’s previous rule from 1996-2001, reports emerged of gay men stoned to death in official executions in Afghanistan.
A UK foreign ministry spokesperson said that the LGBT+ group rescued on Friday will stay in a bridging accommodation, Reuters further reported. The government, meanwhile, assured that more vulnerable LGBT+ people from Afghanistan are expected to arrive in the UK in the coming months.
“Britain is a fierce champion of freedom and the right of all people to be themselves and love who they want free from persecution. We played a key role getting these people out and will continue to do all we can to help at-risk Afghans leave the country,” UK foreign minister Truss was quoted as saying by the official statement on Saturday.
Safe houses are being established for Afghans who arrived on Friday, Sebastian Rocca, chief executive of Micro Rainbow, a charity supporting LGBT+ refugees, told Reuters.
British gay rights group Stonewall and Canada’s Rainbow Railroad were a part of the evacuation efforts.
“However, our work is not yet done. We will continue advocating for international support for LGBTQ+ Afghans, including those that remain in Afghanistan, and we will also continue to work with the UK Government to ensure that the LGBTQ+ Afghans who arrive in the UK are given the support they need to thrive,” Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said.
Under the UK’s Operation Pitting, which ended in late August, the government has assisted more than 1,300 people, including Afghan civilians and British nationals, to leave Afghanistan, the official also said.