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The animal charity boss who has been campaigning to get his staff and rescue animals out of Afghanistan has been given the OK by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Former Royal Marine Paul 'Pen' Farthing runs the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul and launched a campaign to try and safely remove his staff, along with 200 cats and dogs, out of the country following the collapse of the Afghan government.
The campaign has since been dubbed 'Operation Ark'.
Brit Farthing chartered a $500,000 plane to land at Kabul Airport to fly his staff and the rescue animals out of the country - but he had previously claimed the privately-funded flight was being held up by paperwork.
Speaking to Sky News yesterday (24 August), the Defence Secretary said: "[Farthing] could get through the gates as a British passport holder.
"He was called forward on Friday and I recommend he takes that.
"His workforce have been offered, as entitled personnel, places and they will be able to be called forward, but I can't guarantee in this window they will be processed onto aircraft, all I can say is they qualify.
"As for the animals that he was rescuing... it is just not going to be the case that I will prioritise them over the men, women and children we see in desperate need at the gate."
However, Wallace has today announced that if Farthing, his staff and the animals can make it to the airport he 'will seek a slot for this plane'.
Now that Pen Farthing's staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA. At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane. @DefenceHQ
- Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) August 25, 2021
Posting on Twitter, Wallace said:" Now that Pen Farthing's staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA.
"At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane.
"If he does not have his animals with him he and his staff can board an RAF flight.
"I have been consistent all along, ensuring those most at risk are processed first and that the limiting factor has been flow THROUGH to airside NOT airplane capacity.
"No one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue."
Yesterday, Farthing hit back at claims he had been attempting to put his animals before people.
He told Sky News: "Mr Wallace, I never asked you to prioritise pets over people. At no point have I ever said that, whatsoever.
"We got a flight and we've said, we will wait - you've just got to give us this call sign so we can actually get it in play, get the airline to actually start the flight plans and then we will sit quite happily and wait.
"We've got an aircraft that we need to put 69 people on, it's got capacity for 250 people.
"And in that cargo hold - it'll be empty. I can't park people in a cargo hold, but I can park my animals in that cargo hold."
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