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WATCH: Visas for Nowzad charity staff in Afghanistan welcomed by Moray MP

By Chris Saunderson

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A CHARITY which has rehomed more than 1700 abandoned animals in Kabul since 2007 has been granted visas for its 68 staff.

During the ongoing evacuation of people from Afghanistan, former Marine Commando Pen Farthing, who founded the charity Nowzad, refused to leave without the staff at his animal sanctuary.

Charity founder Pen Farthing. Picture: Nowzad website
Charity founder Pen Farthing. Picture: Nowzad website

Moray MP Douglas Ross welcomed the move following an update on the Afghanistan crisis earlier today at Westminster.

Mr Ross and other MPs and peers from all parties were briefed by Ministers and officials from the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Also on the call to inform Westminster politicians about the situation on the ground was UK Ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow.

Mr Ross says local constituents are contacting his office in "significant numbers" about the unfolding humanitarian disaster.

“People across Moray continue to worry about the situation in Afghanistan as we get closer to August 31 when the US have said they want to have withdrawn fully from the country.

“However, it was the update from our Ambassador which really hit home. He and his officials, supported by our incredible Armed Forces, are processing applications as quickly as possible to help people get out of the country and back to the UK. He was particularly keen to highlight how much the Embassy staff appreciated the support they had received from across the UK and on social media for their efforts in the most trying of circumstances."

With the Taliban now in control of the country, there have been desperate scenes as people try to flee by any means possible.

Mr Ross added: “The number of people being flown out of Afghanistan by the UK military has increased considerably in recent days and we can only hope as many people as possible get out while there are options to do so.

"We were also updated on a number of people who sought to come to the UK but, due to their place on ‘No fly’ lists because of the risks they pose, were prevented from doing so."

In November 2006, Kilo Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines arrived in the war torn town of 'Now Zad' in Helmand Province, to provide stability for the local people.

Royal Marine Sergeant 'Pen' Farthing took the many stray dogs that roamed the town to his heart.

He founded the charity a year later, horrified at the number of stray animals.

"As well as rescuing dogs, cats, donkeys, goats and cows, Nowzad has also trained around 500 veterinary students in Kabul over the years and I am delighted that his determination to ensure safe passage to the UK for his staff, many of whom are Afghans, will now go ahead," added Mr Ross.

The charity said on its website: "A huge and extremely heartfelt thank-you from the entire team at Nowzad for the mindblowing generosity of our supporters and friends. The last 48 hours have been so emotional on so many levels.

"There are just too many of you to thank in person here - we will be doing that for many years to come - but we want you all to know how eternally grateful we are to each and every one of you. Literally every single penny counts for our team and animals out in Kabul at the moment so all your donations are making the biggest difference. But also your support, concern and love has been overwhelming.

"As we know you'll appreciate, it has been extremely difficult to keep the updates coming. Communications are hard and the situation in Kabul is ever-changing. The phone is being manned along with Facebook messages, but there will be a delay."

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