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I have scarcely been so angry in all my years working as an elected representative. So many Afghan people have been unforgivably deserted by this government – potentially left to suffer violence and death under the Taliban.
My team worked long hours every day to help desperate constituents, save lives and reunite families – only to be ignored by ministers at the Foreign Office. The 25 families my team and I have been supporting must now be fearing they will never see their relatives again. It feels like we have failed them. But it is this Government that failed them. It failed to plan for the withdrawal of western troops in the last 18 months, enabled the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and failed to evacuate many thousands who were attempting to flee violence and retribution. Ministers bickered between themselves over how many interpreters the UK would take, fearing how the refugees might come to be viewed as ‘migrants’. They showed a complete lack of leadership. Shame on them.
There will be many who are upset about what is unfolding in Afghanistan, as the UK Government ended its evacuation flights – and concluded its part in the 20-year military campaign in the war-torn nation. It is upsetting to think that, for the Afghan people, the war ended as it began: with the looming spectre of the Taliban and dreadful terrorist attacks. The fear is that the UK and the US have now left those citizens in a worse position than when we invaded. Others will fear that our Government has catastrophically failed to provide any sort of stability and even the most basic security and safety for the Afghan people – with progress decisively rolled back as the Taliban strengthens its hold on the nation.
My team and I are now faced with the task of writing to those we sought to help, to inform them that our efforts have been in vain and that their families may not make it out. I am grateful to the troops, diplomats and embassy staff that stayed, to assist people seeking safe passage to the UK. But none of the 25 families’ relatives we sought to help have made it away from Afghanistan and now find themselves in hiding – and I am hearing similar tragic stories from colleagues. It is especially soul-destroying to have to inform families that the government has no clear plan to get them to safety, and no guidance for us on how to keep them safe.
Many who worked for the UK government; interpreters, government officials, NGO workers and military officers – many of whom qualify for the Afghan Relocations and Assistant Policy (ARAP) scheme – have been left behind. The Guardian is reporting that as many as 7,000 Afghans have been deserted by the UK – despite the government’s claims that the figure is nearer 1,000. These people are in grave danger.
The British Government must accelerate efforts to get any remaining UK nationals and eligible Afghans out of the country – quickly followed by anyone seeking refuge who is facing violence and death. I strongly supported the deployment of troops to Kabul to provide security and the capacity to achieve this. We also need to provide sanctuary for far more of those who have served alongside and supported the British presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s return is likely to lead to a refugee crisis. As you will have heard, the government has announced a new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) with the plan to rehome Afghan nationals who have been forced to flee or face threats of persecution from the Taliban. But let’s be honest here: any claim the Government is making to resettle more Afghan nationals is misleading at best and pure fantasy at worst.
The notion the Taliban will allow those nationals to leave or that they will be able to easily flee into neighbouring countries is naïve, wishful thinking. For those who can get out, the resettlement scheme must be generous and welcoming. If they do not make it out, we know the consequences: violent reprisals in Afghanistan; people fleeing into the arms of human traffickers; and more people risking and losing their lives on unsafe journeys including across the English Channel. Global leaders should agree a coordinated humanitarian response, collective help for refugees and work to guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers and diplomats remaining in Afghanistan – while doing all possible to support the human rights of the people of Afghanistan. We must also consider granting leave to remain to Afghan nationals already in the UK, so they are not deported back to their home country.
Locally, I have written to Warwick District Council leaders imploring them to work with the families already based in Warwick and Leamington to help support and rehouse more than 100 of their relatives if they arrive. Warwickshire County Council leaders must also question whether they can do more to help. WDC has pledged to rehome only three families – while WCC has committed to taking in only 100 refugees across the entire county. This is a paltry response. I am urging both councils to do more. So many people face violence and death if we desert them. We cannot delay if we want to save lives. We must play our part.
Many of you have asked what you can do to help, and I recommend you contact a local group ‘Welcome Here’ which is supporting the families being settled in Warwick District. Alternatively please donate to the Carriers of Hope charity in Coventry. Both could use your support. Thank you.