Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the dreadful humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Many constituents have contacted me expressing their concerns about the plight of people in Afghanistan, desperate to know what the UK Government will do to ensure the safe evacuation of people and urgently confirm and implement a resettlement scheme for refugees, particularly women and girls, who are at severe risk.
I have been in Parliament today at the debate and I wanted to hear specific details from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary about what exactly the UK Government is doing and will do, to play its role in saving the lives at risk. Today was not a time for running commentary on the situation in Afghanistan or excuses about what has led to this appalling situation. We can all see the desperate scenes there, brought to us by journalists and other media workers working for the BBC and other UK broadcasters, who are themselves at significant risk from the Taliban. What we needed to hear from the UK Government today was exactly what steps are being taken.
The UK has an obligation to people in Afghanistan. The resettlement scheme that was trailed in the media last night and set out in an article in the Telegraph today by the Home Secretary does not meet the scale of the challenge. Not only does it risk leaving people in Afghanistan in deadly danger, it will also undermine the leadership role that the UK must play in persuading international partners to live up to their responsibilities.
In his speech on behalf of us all in the Shadow Cabinet and across the Parliamentary Labour Party today, Keir Starmer set out our demands of the UK Government:-
- An urgent, generous Resettlement Scheme for people to rebuild their lives here with safe and legal routes out of Afghanistan must be implemented now.
- It must be a Resettlement Scheme that meets the scale of the enormous challenge and we should show leadership as a country setting an example that other nations can follow. What the Government has announced does not do that. It is vague. It will support just 5,000 in the first year with offers to help others “in the long term” according to the Prime Minister.
- There are already too many eligible Afghans facing bureaucratic hurdles and too many unfairly excluded – I know this from my own Home Office casework. Knowing the date of withdrawal was coming for months the Home Office is not close to completing the process they’ve already got up and running. It was designed to help around 7,000 people, but Home Office figures this week show only 2,000 have been helped so far.
- The scheme must be both generous and welcoming. If it is not, we know what the consequences will be – 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.
I know that our Welsh Labour Government and our Labour Council here in Cardiff will play their part in responding to this crisis. I am proud that we are a nation and a city of sanctuary. The UK Government needs to implement a plan, backed by the necessary resources, to enable every local authority in the UK to play its part in the humanitarian response. I know the people of Cardiff Central want this to happen. I know because we did it in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria in 2015 and you contacting me along with many other constituents expressing your concern and support shows again, both the humanity and strength of feeling present in our great city.
Keir Starmer gave a powerful and practical speech today in the debate. Here is a link to the speech which I would please urge you to read. It shows the leadership we should have seen from our Prime Minister and his Government.