LONDON: Prince William has told Afghan refugees who recently arrived in Britain that they were welcome in the country and praised their bravery after risking their lives working alongside British forces in Afghanistan.
The prince visited families housed in a hotel for refugees evacuated from Kabul this year.
He told families who had been forced to leave behind everything they knew and loved at short notice: “The most important thing is that you are safe now. You have a bright future. You couldn't be more welcome. Thank you for all you have done for us.”
The hotel, which is unnamed for security reasons, hosts around 175 refugees who are waiting on the government to find them long-term accommodation.
The prince was met with applause by the refugees on his arrival.
One Afghan, Hussain Saeedi Samangan, told the Daily Mail that he and his family’s escape from Kabul had been difficult, as were their initial experiences in their UK quarantine hotel, but said they felt very welcome in Yorkshire and were optimistic of a “bright, exciting future” in Britain.
Samangan added that he never believed Kabul would fall to the Taliban.
“It took everyone by surprise. You will have seen for yourself what it was like in the media. We had some very traumatic moments before the evacuation. But we were lucky to receive the help the British government were giving in getting us to the airport, compared to others who spent many hours at the gate. So we had a smoother path to get here.”
Asked by the prince whether he thought this generation of the Taliban would be different, he replied: “No. We know what the Taliban wants, we know they have not changed and that we couldn't trust them.”
Another Afghan, 33-year-old Kabul airport firefighter Haroom Shahab, told the royal that he and his family had to wait for 28 hours at the airport to move just 200 meters in order to get on a plane to the UK.
He described “horrific” scenes with thousands of people hurtling toward the runways, leaving the planes unable to land.
“They were running, they were desperate, in front of the oncoming aircraft. That was very hard for us,” he said. “We were trying to get out of the country because our lives have been torn to shreds. When we got to the UK we finally knew we would be safe. The Taliban are killing people without compassion, policemen and their families just gunned down. Anyone with a link to British or NATO forces or government.”
Shahab said he hoped to take up his old profession once again and become a firefighter in the UK.
Britain evacuated around 7,000 people from Afghanistan when the country fell to the Taliban in August and September this year.
The government has pledged to continue to bring those who worked alongside British or NATO forces during the 20-year occupation into the UK from Afghanistan.