Afghan Chevening alumni included in UK relocation scheme

Government move brings meaning to the motto ‘Scholars for a Year, Cheveners for Life’, says advocate

December 29, 2021
Tower bridge London
Source: iStock

The UK government has said that it will help resettle Afghan alumni of its prestigious Chevening scholarship programme, offering relief to about two dozen former Cheveners stranded in the Taliban-run country.

The alumni will get support from the UK under its Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, to be launched in January, ministers confirmed.

“The government will also honour its commitments to those British Council and GardaWorld contractors and Chevening alumni who are at risk, and these groups will be considered for resettlement under the ACRS,” according to a 23 December statement.

The UK government said that the scheme would help up to 20,000 Afghans, prioritising at-risk women and children and those “who have assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for our values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech and rule of law”.

Ceri Oeppen, co-director of the Sussex Centre for Migration Research at the University of Sussex, previously estimated that roughly 40 to 50 Chevening alumni remain in Afghanistan, “their strong ties to the UK turned from an asset to a serious vulnerability”.

The ACRS announcement is welcome news, said Ruth Arnold, a co-founder of the #WeAreInternational campaign to recognise the value of international education in the UK, who has been advocating for Chevening alumni.

“First of all, it signalled recognition of the specific connection between Cheveners and the UK, individuals selected by the Foreign Office precisely because of their commitment to development and governance, and now at desperate risk because of that,” she said.

“Second, it was a precious reminder that the Chevening alumni had not been forgotten. This small number of talented people and their young families have been longing for news…this announcement told them that the motto ‘Scholars for a Year, Cheveners for Life’ meant something when they most needed it to. Although they cannot say so publicly, they are deeply grateful beyond words.”

But Ms Arnold underscored that the scholars have yet to reach safety.

“Our task now is to expedite the reality of this promise and bring them fully to safely. I personally won’t breathe easy until that’s true.”

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