Responding to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, Luke Pollard MP said:
“There needs to be immediate action to support people fleeing the cruel Taliban. Britain must help people escape the approaching horrors.
I am glad that my party pushed for the recall of Parliament and so there can be a full debate on the situation. I decided not to return to Westminster this week for the debate as I am in Plymouth supporting the families and communities affected by events in Keyham last week, but wanted to make my position known on this situation.
The immediate priority must be the safe and swift evacuation of British staff, civilians and Afghans who have served alongside our armed forces over the past 20 years, and my team are supporting multiple people from Plymouth to try and get them returned safely to the UK urgently. The UK must then work with our partners and regional allies to ensure there is a coordinated international response to the spiralling humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. That includes a global response to the inevitable refugee crisis.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary has called for the Government to take urgent steps to set up a British Afghanistan Resettlement Programme which includes locally employed civilians who worked to support British efforts in Afghanistan, such as interpreters, those who stepped forward – especially women – to take up roles in public life such as politics, law and the media and are now left fearing for their lives, and those civilians who are likely to be driven from their homes as a result of the collapse of the Afghan government, with women and children at particular risk. LGBT people face death and we must live up to our international obligations and our values and provide a safe haven for those fleeing death.
We must play our part in the international response to the humanitarian and refugee crises that are unfolding as a consequence of the Taliban’s advance in Afghanistan – we owe it to those in danger to support them. Instead of prolonging his summer holiday, the Foreign Secretary should have been coordinating the UK’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan. The failure to prepare for the safe and swift evacuation of British nationals, support staff and the Afghans who worked alongside us is catastrophic.
Days after evacuations began, there is still no clear strategy from the Government in place. The FCDO’s Rapid Deployment Team still hasn’t arrived in Kabul, leaving British soldiers and a small diplomatic team on the ground to work under incredibly difficult conditions. This effort demands tight cross-government coordination, and this failure of leadership has put lives at risk. The Government has just hours to put this right.
There will and should be a moment to learn lessons from this crisis, but the focus of the Government must be 100% on the crisis before us now. My colleagues and I will continue to press for action, ensuring that those who have served alongside and supported the British presence in Afghanistan are provided sanctuary, those who require humanitarian assistance received it and those to whom we owe a huge debt are not abandoned by this Government.
Plymouth is a welcoming city. We have welcomed many refugees and asylum seekers and I believe we have the capacity and heart to support more people fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. I am speaking to colleagues about keeping the pressure on Ministers to do the right thing. As the situation develops I will keep you informed about what is happening but there is an urgency to act. We are failing our partners in Afghanistan. People are dying. More will die and we owe it to those who supported us, and those who will face death under the Taliban to support them now.”
If you or anyone you know is affected by the events in Afghanistan, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org