• Monday, October 03, 2022

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‘Dire Afghanistan situation demands urgent action’

People believed to have recently arrived from Afghanistan in Manchester. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

By: Nadeem Badshah

Politicians urge ministers to help Britons with relatives seeking to flee Taliban rule

MPs HAVE revealed that they have been flooded with pleas from Britons to help evacuate their relatives from Afghanistan to escape the Taliban.

Britain’s last military flight left Kabul at the end of August after helping more than 15,000 people leave in the two weeks after the Taliban took control of the country. But it is estimated that hundreds of Afghans who had worked with Britain and were eligible for resettlement remain in the country and are fearing for their lives.

Afzal Khan, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, said he received more than 70 cases of constituents asking for urgent help for their relatives – each one has between five and 10 relatives in Afghanistan.

He told Eastern Eye: “One of my constituents has shared videos of her family stuck at Kabul airport, desperately trying to flee the Taliban. She is a Hazara Shia, so she fears for her family’s safety, as religious minorities including Shia Muslims are at risk of persecution.

“The dire and worsening situation in Afghanistan demands urgent action, as we witness a humanitarian and refugee crisis unfold.

“Our immediate priority now must be to accelerate efforts to evacuate the thousands of UK nationals and eligible Afghans out of the country.”

Passengers arriving from Afghanistan who landed at Manchester Airport last month were given food, water, blankets, pushchairs, nappies and baby food. Khan said they received support from charities including Care4Calais and Islamic Relief, who have “been doing brilliant work to help support refugees arriving in Manchester”.

The UK has held talks with senior Taliban figures in Qatar to ensure that Britons can safely leave Afghanistan. Ministers also discussed safe passage for Afghans who have worked with the UK over the past 20 years.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour MP for Slough, told Eastern Eye: “Slough has a long, proud track record of providing support to asylum seekers, and we are currently hosting 300 asylum seekers awaiting immigration status.

“We continue to have a strong desire to help, but the pragmatic reality of Slough Borough Council’s financial situation prevents further support, unless full ongoing funding is provided by the government.” Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, said: “Across our community, people have been pulling together to provide whatever help they can to families affected by the troubling events in Afghanistan.

“We need an urgent response from the government to make sure thousands of Afghans can seek refuge in this country and we resettle as many people as possible. Creating a safe corridor for civilians, including women and girls, must be one of the top priorities right now.”

Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealding in East Sussex, believes the Taliban’s ideology has not changed.

“Their idea of a state has no room for women and girls. Afghan women are already being withdrawn from public life and education. We have to continue to do all we can to get them out.”

It emerged in August that thousands of emails to the Foreign Office from MPs and charities detailing urgent cases of Afghans trying to escape from Kabul were not read.

In response to the news, Labour MP Zarah Sultana said her office has been working to advocate for constituents and their family members whose lives are at risk in Afghanistan.

She added: “The fact the government didn’t put in resources necessary for emails to even be opened is disgraceful and an insult to the Afghan people.”

Officials process documents from Afghan refugees at Heathrow airport.(Photo by Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Labour MP Apsana Begum added: “Our team and I have been raising the cases of absolutely desperate people whose lives are at risk in Afghanistan and seek help from the government, but (prime minister) Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab (foreign secretary) didn’t put the resources in to ensure the emails even read. Disgraceful.”

In response to the allegations, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have been working tirelessly to evacuate over 15,000 people from Afghanistan in the last two weeks.

“We deployed a 24/7 cross-Whitehall team based in our crisis hub in order to triage incoming emails and calls from British nationals, applicants, and other vulnerable Afghans.

“We always cautioned that the nature of the security situation in Afghanistan and our responsibility to keep our people safe meant that we would not be able to evacuate everyone we wanted to.

“Our efforts have now turned to doing everything we can to help any remaining British nationals and the Afghans who supported us leave Afghanistan safely.”

The government has pledged to take up to 20,000 Afghan refugees who were forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban.

Around 5,000 people could arrive here within the first year. But London council bosses said in early September they are only able to house between 125 and 152 families in total.

A government spokesperson said it has made £5 million available to local authorities to support housing costs.

Eastern Eye

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