After being given visas by the UK government, Afghanistan’s women’s junior football team and their immediate families will be transferred to Britain from Pakistan “shortly.”
“We’re working on finalizing visas for the Afghan Women’s Development Team and hope to welcome them to the UK soon,” a UK government official told news outlets.
“The government is dedicated to doing everything it can to help the most vulnerable women and girls, as well as those who have been forced to escape Afghanistan.”
The UK Home Office has refused to disclose on the kind of visas that the players and their families would be granted.
In August, the UK government established a relocation program for Afghan residents who face “terrorist risks.”
Over the next five years, the UK will take in 20,000 refugees, with a focus on women, girls, and religious minorities.
According to the ROKiT Foundation, a UK-based organization that is giving aid, 35 young players, primarily adolescents, and their families — a total of 130 individuals — missed the airlift evacuations from Kabul in August.
“The girls made the hazardous trek in small groups to the Pakistan border with the help of some very brave individuals on the ground in Afghanistan, and all were finally able to get through,” said Jonathan Kendrick, the founder of the ROKiT Foundation.
A Bright Future Ahead
According to Kendrick, Pakistan granted the athletes and their family temporary 30-day visas and brought them to Lahore before filing for UK visas.
With the approved visa application, Kendrick stated the second step of the operation would be the “secure lodging of the girls” in Pakistan before the third phase, which would be the migration of the girls and their families to the UK, which would happen in “the next couple of weeks.”
Khalida Popal, a former Afghanistan women’s captain who now lives in Denmark, tweeted on Saturday: “These girls have gone through a lot and deserve the best. They have the right to fantasize. Thank you to the government of the United Kingdom for agreeing to house them. Thank you to the incredible organizations that made this possible.”
The ROKiT Foundation’s CEO, Siu-Anne Marie Gill, said the organization would continue to help in the UK, “including helping to arrange further education […] as well as trials for players with several English professional women’s football teams who have already expressed great interest in meeting them.”
Last month, Andrea Radrizzani, chairman of Leeds United of the English Premier League, requested the UK authorities to assist the girls in resettling in the nation.
The Leeds owner stated in a statement to news agencies that he is “willing to help in any way we can to offer the girls a bright and peaceful future.”