Dominic Raab admits ‘in retrospect’ he would NOT have taken holiday amid Afghan crisis

Dominic Raab today admitted ‘in retrospect’ he would not have gone on holiday amid the Afghan crisis – as he insisted the ‘distressing’ situation at Kabul airport is ‘stabilising’.

The Foreign Secretary insisted ‘real progress’ is being made in evacuating UK nationals and other refugees, after the Taliban took charge.

After cutting his holiday short on Sunday amid a wave of criticism, Mr Raab conceded he would not have taken a break abroad had he known what was going to happen.  

But he said the whole world had been ‘taken by surprise’ by the speed of the collapse of the Afghan government following the withdrawal of Western troops. 

Tens of thousands of Afghans could be granted asylum in Britain under emergency plans being drawn up by ministers.

Women and girls – whose rights are feared to be in severe peril under the new Taliban regime – will get special priority under the programme, it is understood.

The Afghan resettlement project is expected to be similar to one that has allowed more than 20,300 Syrians to flee to this country over the last seven years.

Mr Raab said he was not able to confirm how many refugees would be coming to the UK, stating that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would ‘set out the details in due course’.

He said the question is whether to have a ‘bespoke’ process for asylum in the UK for Afghans.

‘We’ve done them in the past, so you can look at Syria, for example,’ he said. ‘I think it’s right to consider it for Afghanistan but, as I said, let us come forward with the full details rather than drip feed out bits of this without being properly scrutinised so we can get the right balance.’

Dominic Raab insisted 'real progress' is being made in evacuating UK nationals and other refugees, after the Taliban took charge

Dominic Raab insisted 'real progress' is being made in evacuating UK nationals and other refugees, after the Taliban took charge

Dominic Raab insisted ‘real progress’ is being made in evacuating UK nationals and other refugees, after the Taliban took charge

Women and girls ¿ whose rights are feared to be in severe peril under the new Taliban regime ¿ will get special priority under the programme, it is understood

Women and girls ¿ whose rights are feared to be in severe peril under the new Taliban regime ¿ will get special priority under the programme, it is understood

Women and girls – whose rights are feared to be in severe peril under the new Taliban regime – will get special priority under the programme, it is understood

Mr Raab said ‘hearts go out’ to the citizens of Afghanistan and described the footage of people at Kabul airport on Monday as ‘distressing’.

The Foreign Secretary told BBC Breakfast: ‘Our hearts go out to the Afghan people, who now face what feels like a pretty wholesale Taliban takeover. That’s why we’ve been there, not just to protect the United Kingdom and our allies from insecurity… but to try and improve the lives of ordinary Afghans.

‘Those scenes are distressing, but we’ve got to make sure that airport is stabilised and secure, precisely so, at least in the short term, we get our nationals out and we allow secure safe passage to those served us so loyally over the last 20 years.’

Mr Raab admitted he would not have gone on holiday if he had known what was about to happen, but stressed he returned ‘as soon as the situation deteriorated and demanded it’.

He said: ‘Everyone was caught off-guard by the pace, scale of the Taliban takeover.’

He said all foreign secretaries, ‘when we are abroad, whether it’s travel for work or for holiday, we are there able to respond to events. So I was engaged in Cobra, talking to foreign counterparts, directly speaking to the head of our team here in London, I was doing that on an hour-by-hour basis and, of course, I left as soon as the situation deteriorated and demanded it’.

He added the situation in Afghanistan was being monitored, and ‘from my point of view, at any point in time, I will have eight to 10 simmering issues that can bubble up’.

He said: ‘We didn’t predict that we would be doing this on this scale because of the Taliban takeover. But look, in retrospect of course I wouldn’t have gone on holiday if I had known that would be the case.

‘Equally, after 18 months and two years of a very gruelling, demanding schedule, I think it is right that people in those positions try and take some leave, but we are always ready, I’m always ready, to come back. 

‘And even when I was away, frankly I wouldn’t have gone away if I would have known that, I was constantly handling and managing meetings, talking to foreign counterparts, and because of technology, of course, able to engage in every one of the Cobra meetings.’  

A Downing Street source said it was in no-one’s interests for the Afghan state to fail.  

‘That means providing whatever support we can to the Afghan people who have worked so hard to make the country a better place over the last 20 years and who are now in need of our help.’

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

Cabinet ministers including Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Home Secretary Priti Patel are finalising details of the scheme before handing them to Boris Johnson, who yesterday led the Cobra emergency committee as it held its third meeting in four days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has led the Cobra emergency committee over the last four days, and is seeking to to host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has led the Cobra emergency committee over the last four days, and is seeking to to host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has led the Cobra emergency committee over the last four days, and is seeking to to host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden

The Prime Minister is seeking to host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, as soon as possible. He spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday and ministers are hoping for a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in the coming days.

Mr Johnson will update Parliament tomorrow when MPs are recalled early from their summer break for the first time in eight years to debate the crisis.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The UK team in Afghanistan is working around the clock in incredibly difficult circumstances to help British nationals and as many others as we can get to safety as soon as possible.’ 

Former Conservative immigration minister Damian Green called on the Government to take in any Afghan with a legitimate claim. 

‘There are times and places where we should be strict with asylum applications. Afghanistan today is the exact opposite,’ he said.

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan being relocated to the UK

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan being relocated to the UK

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan being relocated to the UK

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan being relocated to the UK

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan being relocated to the UK

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan being relocated to the UK

‘We should take anyone who can make a case.’ 

Chairman of the Commons defence committee Tobias Ellwood said the numbers accepted by Britain should run ‘at least’ into tens of thousands.

The former British Army captain told news website PoliticsHome: ‘All Nato countries who participated in Afghanistan need to work together to coordinate efforts in order to facilitate arrival of what will be hundreds of thousands of families fleeing the country.’ 

Former Cabinet minister Lord Hammond described the situation as a ‘terrible failure of Western strategy’ warning of not just a ‘humanitarian crisis but no doubt in time a counter-terrorism crisis for the West’.

Former Conservative immigration minister Damian Green (pictured) called on the Government to take in any Afghan with a legitimate claim

Former Conservative immigration minister Damian Green (pictured) called on the Government to take in any Afghan with a legitimate claim

Former Conservative immigration minister Damian Green (pictured) called on the Government to take in any Afghan with a legitimate claim

The resettlement scheme will offer an escape route to thousands of people, but any upper limit on numbers was still being finalised last night.

Last night British legal bodies called for female Afghan judges and lawyers to be given priority, amid concern over their safety under Taliban rule.

The Bar Council and the Law Society said in a joint statement they were ‘gravely concerned’ about the ‘perilous future’ they were facing under the Taliban.

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