This government’s gross negligence towards Afghanistan is obvious – but now we can’t waste a moment

·3-min read

As I write this, sitting safely at home with my family, it’s impossible not to feel a deep sense of horror watching the scenes unfold in Afghanistan.

I know I won’t be the only person holding my loved ones a little closer today, realising how lucky we are to be here.

When we see the terror that has gripped Afghanistan as the Taliban has seized control, it’s equally clear that Britain has an obligation to show moral leadership in offering sanctuary to people left in such a dire situation.

I am angry beyond words that the foreign secretary was at the beach, after already being warned he needed to be doing everything possible to secure exits for our friends and allies. Dominic Raab’s behaviour is unforgivable and his time in that office must now come to an end.

In Labour, we have been clear that Britain has a duty to set up a rapid and comprehensive Afghanistan resettlement programme. Firstly, that must mean urgently providing safe passage for Afghans, like interpreters, who served alongside UK representatives.

They have been our closest friends and allies; we must not turn our backs on them now. Since April, when the government set up a scheme to help interpreters, only around 2,000 of a reported 7,000 possible applications have been processed. Ministers knew about the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and their complacency shames them.

Along with the international community, we also have a duty towards those people, especially women, who bravely stepped into public life, in areas like law, the media and politics, underpinned by the promises of security. We know they are now likely to be targets for extremists, so we have to unite and offer people a chance to rebuild their lives in safety.

Shambolic government planning for exit means that the window for people coming out by air is perilously small. Not a moment can be wasted.

We also know that civilians are already being driven from their homes by violence and persecution, with women and girls at greatest risk. The track record of the Taliban for brutality is chilling. This will inevitably cause a refugee crisis in the region and Britain has to help lead global efforts to address this.

A crisis of this scale requires an international solution and all partners must play their part. But Britain must step up and urgently provide the moral, global leadership needed.

In Labour we are deeply concerned that the refugee programme proposed by this government does not meet the scale of the challenge, and I know this is a sentiment shared by The Independent.

The scheme will support just 5,000 in the first year, then offers to help others “in the long term”. For those who desperately need our help today there is no long term, only day-to-day survival.

Britain has an obligation to people in Afghanistan – yet we risk leaving them behind to face deadly danger. The gross negligence of this government left it failing to plan for this disaster and as a result, huge numbers of Afghans’ lives are in danger today.

Now the government must do the honourable thing and find a way to help people in the worst situation imaginable – this is, literally, a matter of life and death.

Nick Thomas-Symonds is the shadow home secretary and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

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