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Boris Johnson denies ordering Afghanistan animal rescue as LGBT+ people stood stranded in peril

Josh Milton January 27, 2022
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Boris Johnson wearing a hard hat and orange hi-res jacket over his suit

Boris Johnson visits the Orthios Eco Park in North Wales. (Carl Recine - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has denied that he intervened to evacuate animals – but not LGBT+ people – from Afghanistan.

Newly-released Foreign Office emails suggest that the prime minister authorised the evacuation of 173 animals from a British charity shelter in Kabul as the Taliban seized power in August.

Around the time, the i‘s special correspondent Patrick Strudwick handed the government a list of 250 queer Afghans in desperate need of assistance.

Strudwick wrote in the i that after giving the list to LGBT+ rights envoy Nick Herbert, he was told that they could not be airlifted out of Kabul because there were “too many other people” requiring help.

The dogs and cats were airlifted to safety while countless people remained stuck in Afghanistan, including many LGBT+ Afghans facing certain death.

Boris Johnson has denied authorising the animal rescue despite official emails suggesting otherwise, telling the press that such claims are “total rhubarb”.

“I can tell you that the military always prioritised human beings and that was quite right,” he said, the BBC reported.

“The Prime Minister had no role in authorising individual evacuations from Afghanistan during Op PITTING, including Nowzad staff and animals,” a Number 10 spokesperson told PinkNews.

“At no point did the Prime Minister instruct staff to take any particular course of action on Nowzad.”

Boris Johnson wearing a hard hat and orange hi-res jacket over his suit
Boris Johnson visits Hanson Aggregates on January 27, 2022 in Penmaenmawr, North Wales. (Peter Byrne-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“The PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated,” read an email dated 25 August from a Foreign Office staffer in Zac Goldsmith’s office

Goldsmith denied any wrongdoing on Twitter: “I did not authorise and do not support anything that would have put animals’ lives ahead of peoples’.”

Another email, obtained by Sky News, saw Boris Johnson’s top aide, Trudy Harrison, assure Virgin airline managers that the transport secretary would “provide whatever assistance is needed” to rescue the animals.

Harrison, Number 10 said, was acting in her role as MP for Copeland in western Cumbria. The government did not charter the plane but did sponsor clearance for the flight from Kabul airport.

LGBT+ Afghans are facing an “increasingly desperate situation” since the Taliban seized power in August, according to a report by Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International.

A group of 29 LGBT+ Afghans were relocated to the UK by the Foreign Office in October, with the aid of Stonewall and asylum group Rainbow Railroad. A second group arrived in November.

However, there are countless more stuck in Afghanistan under the cruel rule of the Taliban.

LGBT Afghans face violence and rape amid 'increasingly desperate situation'
Afghan refugees flee Kabul in August 2021 (ARMEND NIMANI/Getty Images)

One gay man recently told PinkNews that he is desperate to start a new life in England.

“The situation of living under the Taliban flag as a gay man is very tough,” he said.

“I’m really scared of them because I don’t know what they will do if they know about my sexual orientation.

“Because of this, I do not get out of my home often. I always stay home to avoid facing them.”

The UK’s Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme will resettle 5,000 Afghans this year, with LGBT+ people among those given priority.

PinkNews contacted the Foreign Office for comment.

More: Afghanistan, Boris Johnson

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