Boris Johnson intervenes over visas for Afghan students

Boris Johnson has promised that the government will try to support 35 Afghan students get visas to travel to the UK, after the Foreign Office denied them the opportunity to take up their prestigious British scholarships this year.

The prime minister intervened and said efforts would be made to accelerate their visas, hours after the Foreign Office defended its decision to prevent them taking up places this September.

Taliban insurgents entered the Afghanistan capital Kabul on Sunday, an interior ministry official said, as the United States evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.

Initially, the Foreign Office said it was deferring their Chevening scholarships for a year because it could not manage to administer their visas at the embassy in Kabul, which is now being evacuated.

The students were given the news this month in a letter from the British ambassador to Kabul, Sir Laurie Bristow.

Pressed on the issue of the scholars, Johnson told Sky News on Sunday: “We do want to make sure they are able to come and so we are doing whatever we can to accelerate their visas to get them over as well.”

Several of the students are members of vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, some have previously been displaced by Taliban violence, and their association with British universities could make them particular targets.

The students are hopeful their scholarships will only be deferred, but they are deeply concerned it could be impossible to leave Afghanistan in a year’s time.