On the 14th September 2021, I wrote to Priti Patel, Home Secretary, and Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, to express my deep concern with the Government’s handling of the crisis that has unfolded in Afghanistan, the family members of my constituents who require help and the Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme.
You can read my letter below in full:
I write in relation to the ongoing situation of terror and genuine peril for so many of my constituents’ family members in Afghanistan.
I am still being contacted on a daily basis by constituents, including those with fresh cases of family members who require help to leave a situation that is no longer safe for them. The number of constituents’ family members that I am trying to help is nearing 900. To my knowledge, in just two of these hundreds of cases have the family managed to travel to safety in the UK to date.
All but three of the 130 cases I have sent to the Government have still received no substantive response whatsoever. Many of my constituents understandably feel abandoned and many increasingly despair of ever receiving help, or even a fair hearing, from this Government.
The Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme remains a vague and distant prospect and colleagues have received no clarity about whether or how the cases we have raised will be prioritised within it. I believe it is increasingly clear that the planned scale of the scheme, of just 5000 places in the first year, means that it will be exhausted rapidly, leaving the vast majority of those in desperate need abandoned with no help. My constituents’ cases alone would be likely to fill almost a fifth of the first year’s stated allocation. No clarity has been offered about alternative routes to resettlement that could and should be available, such as family reunion schemes.
I am left with nothing that I can say to the desperately worried constituents who continue to contact me other than that the Government has failed them and does not appear to recognise their requests for help as legitimate, urgent and weighty. Many are actively considering unsupported travel out of Afghanistan in the dim hope of accessing the Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme from a third country, or of reaching safety with their families in the UK by irregular and perhaps unsafe means.
I cannot confidently and in good conscience advise this course of action, given the risks such a journey would involve and the lack of clarity about the safety and help the Government might or might not eventually offer. At the same time, it is clear that the dangers of simply remaining and waiting in Afghanistan are comparably severe for many constituents’ family members. Many are sleeping rough on the streets of Kabul or in very insecure and temporary hiding places and are desperately afraid with every passing day that the Taliban will identify them for retaliation or persecution. In some cases, family members have already been killed, and those that remain are terrified that they will be identified next.
I am horrified by the attitude of complacency I see from this Government. When will the Government acknowledge the real scale of need for resettlement that exists, even within the family reunion category alone? When will the Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme open?
My constituents’ family members have been put at terrible risk by the complete failure of UK Government policies and intervention. When will the Government have the decency even just to offer simple, meaningful and realistic advice to my constituents about how their family members can stay alive from day to day?
If positive answers to these questions are not forthcoming very soon, I believe the Government must tell my constituents the brutal truth: Ministers have washed their hands of Afghanistan and now deny their responsibility to alleviate the damage their failure has caused. The people who are in danger are at risk because they believed and participated in a project to create a better Afghanistan, at the instigation of the UK and others. They trusted us to support them, and that trust is being utterly violated. My constituents, like their families, are being abandoned.
I look forward to a response to my many letters on this issue soon.