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 made representations on behalf of over 70 families in Cardiff Central who have been affected by the crisis in Afghanistan. The government promised that all cases would receive a full response from the Home Office / Foreign Commonwealth Development Office by today. Shamefully I have only received a handful of responses and have been given no further instruction about the anticipated Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme.
Despite having 18 months to prepare for withdrawal, their failure to plan, their inability to influence others and the complacency they have shown towards the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has resulted in the chaos we have seen over the past weeks.
British troops, diplomats and civil servants have done a heroic job in trying to ensure as many people as possible can get to safety. Their remarkable efforts in incredibly difficult circumstances should be widely recognised and honoured. The horrific attack at Kabul airport showed the dangers they faced and the courage they showed to continue to help those in need. It is the government that must take responsibility for the failures and mistakes that put them in such a difficult position.
An urgent, generous Resettlement Scheme for people to rebuild their lives here with safe and legal routes out of Afghanistan must be implemented now. The government have abandoned their moral responsibility to support the people left behind in Afghanistan and have given no indication of what support will be provided for them now.
We need 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.
Labour is calling on the government to:
- Outline an urgent plan to enable those who are stranded in Afghanistan to leave via a viable and safe route and work with councils to establish how they can be supported to rebuild their lives here in the U.K. We are deeply concerned that the plans that have been outlined are insufficient. They have promised to help 20,000 refugees in the long term, but for those fearing for their lives there may be no long term.
- Lay out a clear diplomatic roadmap for the way ahead. With the Taliban now in control, we need to work with allies to defend our interests and support the people of Afghanistan.
- Use every lever we have, especially economic, to try to protect the gains of the last 20 years, including defending our security and preventing Afghanistan becoming once again a safe haven for international terrorism.
- Work through the UN and trusted partners on the ground to deliver essential aid directly to those in need. We must not forget about the Afghan people. Even before the withdrawal, Afghanistan was facing a humanitarian crisis. This, combined with the current chaos, risks a refugee crisis and increases the threats to our security.
- Work with regional partners to keep land routes open and work together to support Internally Displaced People and refugees and ensure they can access food, water and basic medicine and those in danger can flee.
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.
Please be assured that I, and my Labour Colleagues will not let the government get away with their moral negligence, we will hold them to account and continue to press for targeted support for Afghan citizens.