Afghan girls from youth football team who escaped Taliban face being split up in UK

Human Rights Watch said it was vital the players had support after their arrival

Girls from the Afghan youth football team are expected to land in Britain on Thursday as human rights activists say they face being split up over housing needs.

The girls and their families may be placed in temporary accommodation because a local authority has not yet agreed to house all 132 people in the group.

Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch said it was “wonderful” the girls are heading to the UK but added it was also vital they had support after their arrival.

“Women’s sports is not going to exist in Afghanistan in coming months and likely years. It would be really important for Afghan women’s sports to stay alive outside the country,” she said.

“They need not just a new home but a new home where they can continue to be a team.

“I hope there is support for them wherever they go. We are seeing more and more how much trauma they are going have to carry with them. They are going to be wonderful members of whatever community they join.”

The team is expected to land in Birmingham on Thursday and then travel to Leeds in northern England.

Premiership football club Leeds United and its chairman Andrea Radrizzani has offered to help.

He said United would “give the girls a prosperous and peaceful future” and the chance to play for its youth development teams.

But a leaked email suggested Leeds City Council has so far refused to provide housing for the entire group of 32 players and 100 relatives and team coaches.

Leeds City Council denied it would only house five of the girls, but has also not said how many it will help.

“Leeds is fully committed to accommodating Afghan refugees and a large number of families have already been accommodated in the city, a spokesperson said.

“However, the issues affecting all Afghan refugees, including those involved in women’s football, are complex and we continue to work with government and other partners to address the challenges faced.”

The campaign to evacuate the girls to England has been led by Kashif Siddiqi, a London-born international footballer who co-founded the Football for Peace charity.

The girls fled Afghanistan after the Taliban swept to power in August fearing a return to its previous bans on women playing sport and being educated.

Updated: November 11th 2021, 9:58 AM