We have been deeply saddened in the past couple weeks by the crisis in Afghanistan. The scenes at Kabul Airport are a reminder that many Afghans fleeing the Taliban don’t get a choice over the way they escape. We welcome the fact the government is thinking about resettlement, but their commitment is over five years and doesn’t go far enough. The events of the last few days show we need to move fast to be effective. That means helping more than 5,000 refugees this year if that’s what it takes to keep vulnerable Afghans safe and help them rebuild their lives with dignity.
Since 2009, there have been 21,613 applications for asylum from people from Afghanistan in the UK. 7,619 of these applicants were declined any form of protection. 2,609 of these applications were from women, and 875 from children. This year alone, 76 applications for asylum have been declined. There are around 3,000 such claims currently outstanding. Thousands of returns to Afghanistan (either through voluntary or enforced removals) have been made during the conflict.
The Nationality & Borders Bill, which will continue through the Commons in the Autumn, will seek to criminalise and discriminate against anyone who comes via irregular routes, even those with compelling reasons to be in the UK. It needs to be amended in light of the situation in Afghanistan, as those fleeing the Taliban will have no access to regular routes. Our community is a generous and welcoming place. Just as we helped Syrians in their hour of need, we can help the female leaders, former interpreters, humanitarians, young men escaping Taliban conscription and others who are seeking safety.
As there are no clear guidelines on how the UN, the UK Government alongside local authorities and frontline organisations will be able to help Afghan nationals who are fleeing the Taliban, Migrants’ Rights Network have joined over 100 organisations in writing to the Home Secretary on the Afghanistan crisis and urged the the Home Secretary to:
- Abandon the ‘resettlement-only’ plans set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill, that would criminalise or deny full refugee status to those who make their own journeys to seek asylum in the UK
- Grant immediate asylum to Afghans already waiting for status in the UK
- Release all Afghan nationals from detention
- Expand the family reunion route so that Afghans can be joined by other members of their family, such as parents and siblings
- Join the international effort to evacuate and resettle Afghan nationals
To read the full letter coordinated by JCWI, see here.
For more information on the crisis
Support for Afghan
UK government Afghan Relocations and Assistance scheme
FACTSHEET: UK support to resettle Afghan nationals – ARAP scheme
FACTSHEET: Resettlement routes for Afghan nationals
To provide immediate support, you can
- Donate airline miles to those that have approval to travel but cannot afford the costs
- Donate to Rukshana Media, an Afghan, women-led journalist group who are doing amazing reporting
- Donate to Sahar Speaks, who provide training and opportunities for female journalists in Afghanistan
- Donate to SOLA, who provide education, mentoring, and other essential support to Afghan girls that are not able to leave
- Connect with Refugees At Home if you have a spare room or sofa bed that you can offer to a refugee or person seeking asylum in the UK
- Sign this Refugee Action petition that asks the government to commit to resettling 10,000 refugees/year
- Get involved with Asylum Matters and their campaign efforts on the Anti-Refugee Bill
- Join the Together with Refugees coalition
- Write to your MP with this below template letter, prepared by Asylum Matters. Simply copy and paste this into the linked website after you select your local MP:
Dear [INSERT MP NAME]
I am writing to you as a constituent after watching the harrowing images from Afghanistan where people are being forced to flee from the Taliban. With Parliament having recently met on Wednesday 18 August to discuss the tragic situation, I am asking that you take a stand for the Afghan people who have been suddenly and violently displaced from their homes.
The situation in Afghanistan is a stark reminder that all too often people don’t choose to leave their homes. They are forced to flee, taking no more than they can carry, running towards safety, wherever they might find it. If other countries shut their borders, there would be nowhere for desperate people to go.
This is what the UK is proposing to do with the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is returning to Parliament later this year. This anti-refugee Bill aims to criminalise people travelling to safety via so-called ‘irregular routes’ — often the only routes available to people forced to flee for their lives, like many of those desperately seeking safety in Afghanistan. It says we should prioritise giving protection to those who wait patiently for resettlement places to become available but doesn’t make any commitments to creating those safe and legal pathways.
I believe that the UK cannot call on other countries to play their part in addressing the situation in Afghanistan until we are confident that we have stepped up to the task. I am asking that you speak out in Parliament tomorrow on my behalf, calling for:
● A long-term commitment to a global resettlement scheme with an ambitious target that can adapt and respond to crises that unfold around the globe;
● Country guidance for Afghanistan, which guides Home Office decision-making on asylum applications, to be updated to reflect the new context;
● Rapid resolution of pending Afghan asylum claims and rapid review of Afghan asylum appeals, so that people are able to start rebuilding their lives in the UK;
● Family reunion rules to be reviewed to allow for a broader range of family members to join those from Afghanistan who have settled in the UK.
Finally, and crucially, the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will make it even harder for those fleeing oppression to seek safety, needs to be thrown out. It is unthinkable that in a few months’ time, some Afghan refugees will reach our shores after a perilous journey to the UK because of a lack of safe routes to get here. Under the Bill, they will be criminalised, their claims treated as inadmissible, and returned to one of the countries they have travelled through.
We have a proud record of helping those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny from around the world. Now, more than ever, we need to step up and provide urgent protection to Afghans fleeing for their lives.
Please feel free to get in touch with me to discuss in more detail. I look forward to hearing from you.