On the anniversary of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK has called on the government to help Afghan refugees, and renewed its calls for a humane and protection-focused response to refugees. Today marks one year since the Taliban took over Kabul, with the consequence that thousands of Afghans were in mortal danger. Many had no choice but to seek safety elsewhere.
Sarah Teather, JRS UK’s Director, has joined others leading support for refugees in calling on the government, in a joint letter, to “urgently help those already here and ensure Afghans can safely reach the UK and their family”.
The UK government’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan has been and continues to be criticised on multiple levels: In August 2021, the UK government sought to evacuate a handful of Afghans, most of whom had worked for the British government or otherwise connected to it, many eligible for the scheme were ultimately left trapped in Afghanistan. The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which opened in January 2022, has been criticised for operating too slowly and too late, and has very specific eligibility criteria. Furthermore, those Afghans who arrived in the UK via other means face penalties under the government’s New Plan for Immigration and Nationality and Borders Act 2022, and could face forced removal to Rwanda. Around 12,000 of those who were successfully evacuated to the UK spent months in isolated, run-down and overcrowded hotels, awaiting longer-term accommodation.
Michael Tarnoky, JRS UK’s Legal Officer, said: “The government’s evacuation scheme, and its subsequent resettlement scheme, were both so slow and restrictive that many Afghans were forced to make irregular journeys, only to face rejection by the UK asylum system. The human consequences of this chaotic and cruel response are grave. Sadly, they are all too connected to our wider approach to asylum. The government must act to provide genuine help to Afghan refugees rather than holding up a failed project as a ‘safe and legal route’”.
In August last year, JRS UK was prominent in highlighting how the painful realities of the Afghan situation, which saw people desperately fleeing in any way available to them, showed the folly and cruelty of the government’s plan to penalise refugees for how they are able to travel.
The joint letter excoriating the government’s response to Afghans’ plight was published in The Times today and received over 130 signatures from organisations.