Flight carrying Afghanistan evacuees lands in UK
The government’s plan is to protect 5,000 Afghans through re-settlement this year and help a further 15,000 over the next five years. But critics are arguing this is far too slow when considering the immediate threat the Taliban poses to the survival of some families. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said refugees could “start a new life in safety in the UK, away from the tyranny and oppression they now face”.
Yesterday, Taliban fighters used gunfire, whips, sticks and sharp objects to maintain crowd control over thousands of Afghans who continue to wait outside the Kabul Airport for a way out.
Amongst those injured were defenceless children.
Women, children, religious minorities, and those who have helped the Western front since the war began in 2001 after 9/11, will be prioritised in the evacuation strategy, but only 5,000 of them will be able to head to the UK this year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK owed “a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last 20 years” and that “many of them, particularly women, are now in urgent need of our help”.
Today there will be a five-hour debate in parliament on the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, and politicians will decide how Britain should approach the international crisis.
Humanitarians across the UK are urging the government to defend and protect those men and women who have fought alongside the British and American forces, as well as all NGO workers who have been setting up schools for girls and tearing down the Taliban regime for the last two decades.
But those desperate to evacuate, as the Taliban come back to power, make up far more than 20,000.
Taliban fighters are taking back control and returning Afghanistan to its oppressive pre-2001 state
The scheme mirrors the Syrian refugee scheme, under which 20,000 people have been resettled since 2014, prioritising survivors of torture, people with serious medical conditions and women with children.
But some are questioning why the scheme’s capacity is the same, as Afghanistan’s population is double that of Syria and the UK has been an active participant in the conflict.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Director at Amnesty International UK, said: “With many Afghans in immediate jeopardy, a promise to resettle a few thousand people in the ‘coming years’ is too little, too late.
“Given the speed and scale of the human rights crisis that appears to be unfolding in Afghanistan, we need a much more urgent focus on those at immediate risk in the country.”
Lord Dubs, a former child refugee, has also criticised the programme as un-ambitious and selfish.
He said: “If the Canadians can take 20,000 [now], why are we only taking 20,000 over five years?
“These people are in danger now and are in desperate need for safety.”
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The UK has a responsibilty to rescue Afghans from a conflict Britain was part of for over a decade
Millions of people are trying to flee by car and by flooding onto airport runways, in a desperate bid to save their families lives and escape from the terror of the Taliban.
When discussing the unfolding Afghanistan crisis, Secretary of State Dominic Raab said the UK was “a big-hearted nation” and has “always been a country that has provided safe haven for those fleeing persecution”.
President Joe Biden’s decision to continue on with Donald Trump’s plan and pull all American troops out of Afghanistan has led to the collapse of order and empowered the Taliban to take back control.
The US government also agreed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, which will have added significantly to the Taliban’s strength.
Downing Street said that Mr Johnson has been in close communication with Mr Biden and had “stressed the importance of not losing the gains made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years”.
The pair are due to speak again at a virtual meeting of G7 leaders, to discuss the crisis in the coming days.
Should the UK government be more “big-hearted” and aim to take in more than 5,000 Afghans immediately? Vote now.