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First group of LGBT + Afghans fleeing the Taliban arrives in UK | Afghanistan

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A group of LGBT + Afghans have arrived in Britain, the first since the Taliban’s return to power in August has caused panic among gay and transgender Afghans, who feared persecution and even death under Islamist rule.

The evacuation of the 29 Afghans is expected to “be the first in a long series” over the next few months, the British Foreign Office said in a statement on Saturday, hours after a Taliban spokesman said LGBT + rights would not be respected.

Thousands of Afghans, including LGBT + people, women and officials linked to the previous administration, rushed to flee the country after the Taliban quickly returned to power on August 15, but many were unable to board on foreign evacuation flights.

“We have played a key role in getting these people out and will continue to do all we can to help Afghans at risk to leave the country,” British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said in a statement, adding that the Great Brittany would continue to defend “the rights of all”. people be themselves and love whoever they want ”.

Among the group are students and activists who have repeatedly championed equality for the LGBT community in Afghanistan, the Office of Foreign Affairs, Common Affairs and Development (FCDO) said.

Members of the group will remain in “halfway houses”, a foreign ministry spokesperson said, declining to give details of their legal status or how they were able to leave Afghanistan, citing the need to protect the road.

During the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, there were reports of gay men being stoned to death in official executions.

Shelters are being set up for Afghans who arrived on Friday, said Sebastian Rocca, chief executive of Micro Rainbow, a charity supporting LGBT + refugees. “Of course, they’re in a new country, in a place they’ve never seen before. Some of them don’t speak the language and don’t know the system, ”Rocca said.

FCDO said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were being rescued from Afghanistan because they were at risk of discrimination and potential assault as a result of the Taliban takeover after NATO exited the country from Central Asia.

Since then, the UK has helped more than 1,300 people, including British and Afghan nationals, to leave Afghanistan.

Officials said the Foreign Secretary, along with Stonewall, Britain’s largest LGBT + rights group, and the Canadian organization Rainbow Railroad, intervened to ensure this first group can safely access the UK. United this week.

More vulnerable LGBT Afghans are expected to arrive in the UK in the coming months.

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said her organization had campaigned to bring vulnerable Afghans to the UK over the “past few months” and pledged to continue pushing for international support to help those in need. still found in the Taliban-ruled country.

“The situation is likely to remain extremely dangerous for some time,” she said.

The UK government has said the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Program will remain open to protect those at risk.

The program, said FCDO, will prioritize those who have helped the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan and championed values ​​such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law. .

It will also focus on the evacuation of vulnerable people, including women, girls and members of minority groups at risk.

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