Afghan women’s junior football team obtains UK visas

“We are working to finalize visas for the Afghan Women’s Development Team and look forward to welcoming them to the UK shortly,” a UK government spokesperson told CNN.

“The government is committed to doing everything in its power to support those who need it most, including vulnerable women and girls, and those at risk who have had to flee Afghanistan.

Britain’s Home Office declined to comment on the type of visas players and their families would receive.

In August, the British government announced a resettlement program for Afghan citizens facing “threats of persecution from the Taliban”.

The program, which prioritizes women, girls and religious minorities, will see the UK welcome 20,000 refugees over the next five years.

Thirty-five young footballers, mostly teenagers, and their families – a total of 130 people – missed the airlift evacuations from Kabul in August, according to a UK-based charity, the ROKiT Foundation, which provides An assistance.

READ: How a ‘motley group’ helped evacuate the country’s Afghan national women’s football team
Members of the Afghan National Young Women's Team receive a surprise welcome from Afghan Women's Team captain Farkhunda Muhtaj in Lisbon, Portugal, in September.

“With the help of very brave people on the ground in Afghanistan, the girls made the perilous journey in small groups to the Pakistani border and all were finally able to pass,” said Jonathan Kendrick, founder of the ROKiT Foundation. .

“They have the right to dream”

Pakistan granted the players and their families temporary 30-day visas and they were transported to Lahore before applying for British visas, Kendrick said.

With the visa application successful, Kendrick said the second phase of the operation was “the safe accommodation of the girls” in Pakistan ahead of the third phase, coming in “the next two weeks,” of the relocation of the girls and of their families. UK.

On Saturday, the former Afghan captain Khalida Popal, who now lives in Denmark, tweeted: “These girls deserve the best of their life. They have a right to dream. Thank you to the UK government for agreeing to be their host country. Thank you to the amazing organizations that made this possible. ”
Former Afghan football captain Khalida Popal.

Siu-Anne Marie Gill, CEO of the ROKiT Foundation, said the charity will continue to offer support to the UK “including helping to organize continuing education […] as well as trials for the players with several professional English women’s football teams who have already shown great interest in meeting them. “

Andrea Radrizzani, president of English Premier League team Leeds United, last month urged the UK government to help girls resettle in the country.

In a statement sent to CNN, the Leeds owner said he was “ready to support in any way possible to give the girls a prosperous and peaceful future”.

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