It has been devastating to watch events unfold in Afghanistan over the last few days and my thoughts are with the Afghan people and foreign nationals who remain in the country. I am especially fearful for the future of women and girls and minorities under the return of the Taliban.
Today’s UN Security Council meeting is long overdue. There needs to be a coordinated approach from the international community to the changing situation on the ground, and a strategy to try to protect the gains made in the last 20 years on human rights.
The priority for the UK Government must be to accelerate efforts to get UK nationals and eligible Afghans out of the country. My Labour colleagues and I support the deployment of UK troops to Kabul to help ensure the security and capacity to do this.
The Government has been far too slow to provide sanctuary to Afghans who have served alongside and supported the British presence in Afghanistan. This is a shameful dereliction of duty. Our resettlement scheme must urgently be expanded to ensure people to whom we owe a huge debt are not abandoned.
I know from my inbox that many constituents are, like me, concerned about the impending humanitarian disaster and likely refugee crisis. It is shameful that the Government has slashed development support to Afghanistan by 45% and Ministers must now take immediate steps to ensure aid can reach those in need. It is also vital that the UK Government creates safe and legal asylum routes and helps support Afghans who are fleeing to neighbouring states.
Following pressure from Labour and other opposition parties Parliament has been recalled from its summer break for one day on Wednesday 18th August. It is vital that the Government sets out how it intends to work with international allies to do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian crisis and prevent Afghanistan from becoming an operational hub for international terrorism.
The situation is changing by the hour, and I will of course be following events very closely over the coming days.
*Update 18th August*
As you may have seen reported, the Government has pledged to resettle “up to” 20,000 Afghan refugees in the UK in the long term and the Home Secretary says she wants the majority of those to be women and girls and persecuted minorities. However, the Government has only pledged to resettle 5,000 Afghans in the first year, which does not go far enough. There is no long term – their lives are in danger right now.
The scale of the UK’s refugee offer must match the scale of the crisis, which is likely to become clear over the coming days and weeks. However, I am very heartened to see that Lewisham – which has officially been designated a Borough of Sanctuary – has already pledged to work with the Government to welcome migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.