NICOLA Sturgeon has challenged the Prime Minister to ‘substantially increase’ the number of Afghan refugees the UK will resettle.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, sent today, the First Minister said she was concerned by the target figure of 20,000 given by Priti Patel last week.

The Home Secretary said the UK would accommodate 5000 Afghans over the next year, and estimates 20,000 will resettle in the country in the long term.

However Ms Sturgeon said the UK Government should be more ambitious in its target, and added that Scotland is “committed to play our part”.

She has also asked for further information on a proposed four nations summit to discuss the plan for accommodating Afghans who arrive in the UK.

In her letter, Ms Sturgeon said: “While recognising the pressures on accommodation capacity, we are concerned that the commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees in ‘the long term’ and just 5,000 in the first year is not sufficient in the context of the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding. 

“We believe a commitment to a substantial increase in numbers is required and urgently seek further details of how civilians, especially women, girls and others in need of refuge will be protected.”

She added: “As you will be aware, all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities participated in the Syrian Resettlement Programme, with over 3,500 refugees welcomed into communities across Scotland under both that programme and the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme.

“We want our local authorities to be able to continue to provide strong support for refugees.

“To do that, we need more detail about the new Afghan Citizens Resettlement Programme, including timescales for arrivals and funding to support local authority participation, as well as wider services which are essential to support people to settle and be able to begin to rebuild their lives.”

The First Minister said she expects Ms Patel’s department to “consider asylum applications form Afghan nationals quickly and compassionately” and added that those who have been previously refused should have their cases “urgently reviewed”.

Priti Patel previously suggested that the UK Government’s figure of 20,000 could be extended, and would be based on need, prioritising those who are most vulnerable.