The shocking and chaotic scenes we have witnessed in Afghanistan over recent weeks have yet again exposed the inadequacies of the UK government’s current immigration and asylum policies. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar story of incompetence and indifference which has come to characterise the UK’s response to refugees fleeing war, violence and persecution.
It was of course entirely right that the UK prioritised the evacuation of UK nationals and Afghans who worked for the British military and UK government. However, not all have been successfully evacuated and their fate remains unknown.
At last week’s foreign affairs select committee, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted that there were hundreds of UK nationals still in Afghanistan. He was unable to give precise numbers of those Afghan nationals and their families who worked with British forces whose lives we must assume are now in grave danger. What a shameful shambles.
The government has pledged to take in 20,000 Afghans who are eligible to claim asylum under international law over five years, in what is being called Operation Warm Welcome.
But given the United Nations has warned that up to half a million Afghans could flee the country by the end of the year, on top of the 2.2 million Afghan refugees who have already fled, Operation Warm Welcome looks very unlikely to meet the urgent humanitarian needs facing Afghan refugees.
Only 5,000 of those 20,000 Afghans who will be allowed to resettle here will be welcomed in the first year. It is an arbitrary figure that neither reflects the real and urgent need for refugees, including children, to be relocated now, nor represents our fair share of the refugees who need safety. It is worth remembering that neighbouring Pakistan has already taken in 1.5m Afghan refugees, Iran some 780,000 and more are still arriving who may be eligible for asylum.