Monthly column: We must fulfil our responsibilities and do the right thing by the Afghan people

Afghanistan Map
Image: Maps @2021 Terrametrics, Map data @2021, Google, Mapa GIsrael

Watching the scenes at Kabul airport this week has left me and many others with feelings of overwhelming sorrow and anger for the millions of Afghans in danger.

Reports that parents are throwing their babies over barbed-wire fences in desperate attempts to save them from Taliban rule show the sheer scale of the foreign policy failure of the US, UK and NATO, matched only by the humanitarian emergency unfolding.

I have already had a stream of heart-breaking correspondence from constituents here in Bedford and Kempston, frantic at the thought of the fate that awaits family members.

Our immediate priority must be the deployment of British troops to evacuate British nationals, as well as the Afghan staff and interpreters who assisted our armed forces.

The Government has been shamefully slow to assure these Afghans, and urgent steps must be taken to rescue all those to whom we owe a huge debt.

Humans in grave danger

The oncoming refugee crisis will require an international response and recent cuts by the Conservative government to the foreign aid budget, including to Afghanistan by half, put us on the back foot.

It is imperative that the UK Government urgently coordinate with the UN and other international organizations to establish safe routes for refugees to neighbouring countries.

On Wednesday, the Government announced a resettlement scheme to take 20,000 refugees over several years, but only 5,000 this year.

This has already been derided by the UNHCR as ‘confusing and disingenuous’; most Afghans fleeing the Taliban will not be able to access the scheme.

Mohammad Yasin MP in Parliament
Mohammad Yasin MP

These are humans in grave danger that cannot wait for the Government to kick the problem into the long grass, like they do every difficult issue.

Let’s not forget, the Tories reneged on their legislated commitment in 2016 to save 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Calais and pulled the programme after saving only 380.

The humanitarian crisis must mark a turning point for our failed asylum system, including ending the hostile environment. The Nationality and Borders Bill would criminalise a woman fleeing the Taliban with her children on a boat across the channel.

This Bill, which I voted against, is cruel and unworkable and must be overhauled.

It is a tragic end that we are ceding back the country to the very insurgency that we went in to defeat in the first place.

I have heard from British soldiers who are now further traumatised that their sacrifice has amounted to nothing. Of course, that’s not true. But this Government has failed British veterans time and time again.

Our service personnel fought for a set of fundamental values – that girls should be entitled to the same education as boys, that courts should be independent, that journalists should not be imprisoned for speaking truth to power.

457 brave British military personnel died fighting for decency and tolerance and to keep us safe from terrorist attacks.

Women and girls were given the hope of a brighter future, the freedom to be educated, work and follow their dreams – dreams now shattered overnight.

For 20 years, they largely succeeded, with the help of the Afghan people, the majority of whom yearn for a true democracy. 70,000 Afghan soldiers died fighting for their country.

Independent inquiry

This political failure has left us weaker, more unsafe to international terrorism and floundering in the ridiculous rhetoric of “global Britain” espoused by Boris Johnson.

This rhetoric needs to instead be an opportunity to finally develop the ethical foreign policy that we deserve.

I support the calls for an independent inquiry into UK foreign policy in Afghanistan.

We urgently need to learn the lessons of failed wars of intervention and take an honest look at the objectives behind our foreign policies with a cold, hard eye about what we can realistically achieve alone on the global stage.

Right now, we must fulfil our responsibilities and do the right thing by the Afghan people.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin MP (Labour). It is published unedited and
does not reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.

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