Dozens of staff from the animal rights charity Nowzad have now been cleared to leave Afghanistan, after a government u-turn overnight.
The charity’s chief executive Pen Farthing said on Monday that 68 members of his staff had been issued with visas to come to the UK. But yesterday Ben Wallace, defence secretary, said he “could not guarantee” staff and animals would be able to get flights out of Kabul.
However, in the early hours of this morning Wallace confirmed that the charity’s staff would be evacuated, along with some of the animals they looked after.
Nowzad, which is registered as a charity in both the UK and United States, has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in the last week to charter a private cargo plane for the evacuation.
Thousands of people are trying to flee Afghanistan, which has fallen under the control of Taliban militants.
Writing on social media, Wallace announced: “Now that Pen Farthings’s staff have been cleared to come forward under [immigration rules], I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA [Kabul airport].
“At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane.
“If he does not have his animals with him, he and his staff can board an RAF flight.
“I have been consistent all along, ensuring those most at risk are processed first and that the limiting factor has been flow THROUGH to airside NOT airplane capacity.
“No one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue.”
Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA. At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane. @DefenceHQ— Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) August 25, 2021
Plans for the charity’s evacuation are part of an effort to airlift around 4,000 British and Afghan citizens out the country in the next few days, ahead of a Taliban deadline for British and American personnel to leave Afghanistan.
The foreign secretary said that British officials had helped 2,000 people leave in the last 24 hours.
Farthing has said that a total of 250 people will be able to fly out on the plane chartered for Nowzad, with dogs and cats occupying space in the hold which would otherwise be empty.
The latest announcement from the government came after Farthing strongly criticised both Wallace and prime minister Boris Johnson on social media, saying that he “had been left to fend for myself in Kabul” and that “neither my staff or animals will now get out”.
After the latest developments, campaigners for Nowzad praised Johnson personally for “taking control” of the situation.
The charity has not yet said when the flight will go ahead, or what arrangements are being made to guarantee safe passage to Kabul airport.