Opinion

Afghan refugees have the right to a warm welcome

The CEO of the Refugee Council wants the government to reconsider its policy on family separation for people fleeing conflict.

Protesting the Borders Bill

Protesters against the Borders Bill Photo: Philip Robins / Unsplash

We remain deeply worried by the sheer numbers [12,000+] of Afghans who remain languishing in hotels for long periods, accommodation by no means appropriate for prolonged stays. This situation represents a failure of the government’s promise to provide a warm welcome to Afghans and to help them integrate here. We remain deeply concerned by all elements of the government’s draconian policies enshrined in the Nationality and Borders Act, and the harm they will do to people in desperate need of safety. 

Criminalising those who have no choice but to make their own way to the UK is both cruel and heartless. It sees this government dramatically turning its back on the commitment made over seven decades ago when the UK was one of the founding signatories of the Refugee Convention – that men, women and children fleeing oppression and war should always be granted a fair hearing on UK soil regardless of how they have reached our shores. 

We need a fair and humane asylum system, which means well thought-out, long-term solutions that – crucially – address why people are forced from their homes and provide them with safe routes to the UK. 

Family separation is one of the cruellest aspects of any conflict. We saw this clearly when Kabul fell and families were torn apart in the mayhem of fleeing the war zone. Consequently, many Afghans who have reached safety here are desperately worried about close family members still in the region who currently have no rights to come to the UK under family reunion rules. 

Our calls to the government are clear. We urge them to immediately create a safe route to ensure that family members who are trapped in Afghanistan facing persecution every day, or who have crossed the border in fear, are able to reunite and find safety in the arms of their loved ones already here in the UK.

Enver Solomon is CEO of the Refugee Council

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