The CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council says he feels “heartbroken, upset and betrayed” after an email showed Prime Minister Boris Johnson had “authorised” the airlift of animals out of Afghanistan.
Sabir Zazai said his family and many others had been denied safe routes out of the country as thousands of people attempted to flee the Taliban during the Allied withdrawal from Kabul last summer.
Meanwhile, Johnson has tried to fend off allegations that he assisted the approval of the evacuation of cats and dogs with the Nowzad charity from the Afghan capital.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to North Wales on Thursday, Johnson said: “This whole thing is total rhubarb.”
The emails to the Commons inquiry were submitted by Raphael Marshall, who worked for the Foreign Office at the time and alleges the animals were evacuated following an order from Johnson.
The evidence appears to contradict the Prime Minister, who previously described suggestions he had personally intervened as “complete nonsense”.
Zazai posted on Twitter that he felt “heartbroken, upset and betrayed”.
He told STV News: “People in Afghanistan are living in poverty, uncertainty and terror.
“The allegations that Boris Johnson personally intervened to ensure the safety of animals, while the people of Afghanistan waited for months for details of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) to be announced are shocking.”
“This scheme has not even begun to resettle people, who are in desperate need, in any meaningful way. We urgently need the UK Government to do more to help the people of Afghanistan and ensure that many more are able to access a safe route to the UK.
“But the sad reality is that only a very small minority will be able to access organised schemes like ACRS.
“People will be forced to flee via whichever route they possibly can. The Government’s anti-refugee bill proposes to close the door on these people, who are only looking to rebuild their lives in safety. These cannot be the actions of a truly global Britain.”
Downing Street has repeatedly denied intervening in any individual cases in the final days of last summer’s mission as thousands of people wanting to flee the Taliban were left behind.
But an email shared with a Commons inquiry shows a Foreign Office official saying in August that the Prime Minister had just “authorised” the animals’ rescue.
As Kabul fell to the Taliban, Nowzad founder Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out, using a plane funded through donations.
But Downing Street say Johnson played “no role” in authorising individual evacuations during the RAF rescue mission, Operation Pitting.
Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and Mrs Johnson had no involvement in the Pen Farthing evacuation, as we have said previously.”