Dozens of Afghan girls with promising football careers, who fled the Taliban, have been told they can come to the UK to be resettled, along with their families.
The group of 135 girls and young women, their families and coaches, are in Lahore after they were helped by a British aid group to escape the Taliban, who threatened to kill them for playing the sport.
As the Evening Standard reported on Wednesday, the girls risked being returned to Afghanistan when their humanitarian visas for Pakistan run out next Tuesday.
However, the government have now confirmed that they are finalising their visas so they can live in the UK permanently.
The squad – aged 13-19 – fled Kabul last month and have been staying for the past few weeks in a hotel in Pakistan, where their temporary visas were due to expire this coming week.
“We are working to finalise visas to the Afghan Women’s Development Team and look forward to welcoming them to the UK shortly,” a UK government spokesman said.
The girls faced having to return to Afghanistan if another country had not accepted them.
“This is fantastic news, and we are most grateful to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel for this life-saving decision,” said Siu-Anne Marie Gill, CEO of the Rokit Foundation, which supported their escape.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for them to have a second chance at life,” said the chairman of the foundation, Jonathan Kendrick, who financed the operation to get them on buses out of Afghanistan and to stay in Lahore.
“This is a whole new world they are taking on and I’m sure with the football community supportive to their plight, they will settle in and be able to experience all of the joys life gives.”
(Picture courtesy: AFP)