13 March 2023
The Linda Norgrove Foundation is urging the UK government to open up its Afghan Citizens Relocation and Assistance Policy Scheme (ACRS) to allow 20 women to come to Scotland to continue their medical studies.
The Foundation provides scholarships for women in Afghanistan to study medicine, but the Taliban’s recent ban on women going to university means they have been unable to continue their studies.
And many of them are at risk, because of their Hazara ethnicity or because they have no male in the household to support them.
Futures snatched away
John Norgrove said: “We’ve been desperately hoping the Taliban may reconsider their position, for without female doctors there is nobody to treat their wives and children when they are sick, but it is looking less and less likely.
“Some of the students were only months away from graduating and have had their futures snatched away. Others are having to move location every few days because of threats due to them being educated women.”
The five medical schools in Scotland’s universities have agreed to find places for 20 students to continue their studies. But their route to the UK has to be through ACRS.
The first ‘year’ of ACRS has closed and there is no sign of the second year opening up, a phase which would involve the government working with international partners and NGOs. The government had indicated that they would take 3,500 Afghans under this phase of the scheme.
John Norgrove acknowledges it has been a challenge for the government because of the additional demand resulting from the war in Ukraine.
But he said: “These women are really desperate and it is truly heart-breaking to hear their stories.
“They are incredibly bright young women who are already part qualified as doctors and who would be a huge asset to this country. It seems like a real win-win for us and for the women.”
The Foundation has been closely monitoring the situation with the ACRS and has been in contact with the Home Office urging them to take action. If the government grants visas, the Foundation will pay for the 20 women to travel to Pakistan and then fly to the UK.
Medical schools in Scotland have agreed to find places for 20 students to continue their studies.
We also plan to help them identify scholarships and apply for student loans to fund their studies and accommodation. We do not have the resources to fully support the students after they arrive in the UK, as the costs are much higher than in Afghanistan.
The Foundation will screen the women to ensure they have an excellent academic track record, a good standard of English and a current passport.
In the meantime, we are continuing to provide living allowances to the scholarship students following the closure of the universities to women.
In recent years we have focused much of our resources on supporting women to study at university, particularly in medicine and midwifery, in order to create a lasting legacy.