LD4SOS Statement on the United Kingdom Government’s response to the Afghan refugee emergency.
By LD4SOS Council
The fast-developing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan demands a generous and comprehensive response from the UK government. Specifically, the fate of millions of displaced people is one that requires international cooperation. Within this cooperation, it is vital that the UK offer good practice for other countries to emulate.
While the Prime Minister's statement in the Commons provides some reassurances, it also leaves many questions unanswered. We welcome his announcement that no Afghan nationals will be returned to Afghanistan. We also welcome his clarification that the resettlement of 5,000 Afghan refugees this year will be additional to and not replace the general resettlement scheme for refugees.
However, we agree with Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran MP, that the Government's humanitarian response is too narrow in scope and lacks the ambition required to tackle this crisis. A paltry commitment to resettle 5,000 refugees, with a vague commitment to resettle 15,000 more in future years, abandons vulnerable persons whose lives are at the mercy of the Taliban following our and others' withdrawal. Liberal Democrats rightly criticised this and called for a much more generous scheme. The Party has also led calls for a safe humanitarian corridor to help those trapped outside of Kabul.
It is absolutely vital that priority is given to those who are most at risk of recriminations from the Taliban. That not only includes Afghan interpreters and those who worked with our armed forces, but also those who worked with our armed forces but were not directly employed by them and therefore do not currently qualify for the relocation scheme. We must also protect the families of those who risked their lives to help our troops by expanding family reunion and to allow them to travel to the UK safely. We must protect women and girls, LGBTQIA+ people, journalists, judges, and educators whose lives are now at risk due to the Taliban.
We fully support the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants' call to
- Scrap the 'resettlement-only' plans set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill, that would criminalise and/or deny full refugee status to those who make their own journeys to seek asylum in the UK. Including those originating from Afghanistan.
- Grant immediate status to Afghans asylum-seekers already 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.
Local authorities will have to carry the heaviest responsibility in relocating and housing Afghan refugees. Therefore, it is vital that the Government provides emergency funds now to ensure this can happen successfully and that these funds are not taken from the international aid budget or related humanitarian funding streams.
This crisis could yet see the largest displacement of people since the Second World War. A comprehensive asylum policy response based on evidence and empathy must be implemented now to avoid the darkest of consequences in the weeks and months ahead for millions of Afghans. Liberal Democrats have an important role to play as the UK's political champions of refugees in ensuring the Government acts decisively and upholds its duty to protect these people.
Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary Executive Council.