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A project for the Linda Norgrove Foundation under way in 2019

The forces of the Western Powers raised the hopes of millions of Afghan women for an independent lifestyle during the years of occupation – and then shattered these dreams with the rapid pullout from Afghanistan in 2021 which abandoned them to be victims again of Taliban oppression. 

Now the UK is closing its ears to any pleas for help from those remaining in hiding, forbidden to work, even to leave their homes. 

During Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, highlighted the ongoing fight of the Lewis-based charity the Linda Norgrove Foundation to bring 20 female medical students from Afghanistan to Scotland to complete their studies.

Allan outlined the situation, noting the efforts of the Linda Norgrove Foundation over the last two years to bring the young women to Scotland. They have faced repeated delays, with the UK Government still not having opened the relevant phase of their Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (originally due to open for applications in January 2023).

Allan said:“I know the foundation was extremely appreciative of the Cabinet Secretary for Education’s help when they met with her last month. Is there anything further the Scottish Government can do to help these inspirational women?”

First Minister Humza Yousaf responded by paying tribute to the work of the Linda Norgrove Foundation, as well as his hope that the Parliament could unite to back this cause, saying that it was incumbent on everyone to put pressure on the Home Office to help, given the plight of women in Afghanistan.

“I know the Cabinet Secretary has engaged with the Foundation, and we have also engaged and written to the UK Government and the Home Office on this particular matter.

"I will see if there is anything more that we can possibly do on this issue, but I would hope that we can collectively join as a parliament to say to the UK Government that their response – their foot dragging – on this particular issue, I’m afraid, is simply not good enough, and is letting down women and girls in Afghanistan.”

John Norgrove, of the Uig-based Linda Norgrove Foundation, said: “We’re becoming really frustrated with all the delays. We were initially told the relevant pathway in the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) would open in January and then we were told August and it’s now being suggested it won’t open any time soon.

“Our students have gone from being trainee doctors to facing a closed existence, consigned to cooking, cleaning and looking after children. They aren’t allowed to leave the house without a male chaperone, some fear for their lives and others are likely to be married off against their will. They are in utter despair and desperately need our help.

“Yet here we are in Scotland with a real shortage of doctors. It’s only common sense that we bring these 20 women, who are already part way through their medical degrees, to complete their studies here and contribute to our national health service.”