Afghanistan crisis: Call for international response to avert Afghanistan humanitarian disaster

Boris Johnson will tell MPs on Wednesday that there must be an immediate increase in aid to Afghanistan to prevent a “humanitarian crisis” in the country after the Taliban seized control.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 6:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 6:56 am

MPs will return to Parliament from their summer break for an emergency sitting – three days after Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell to the militants on Sunday.

The Prime Minister and the Government have come under increasing pressure over the handling of the downfall of the Western-backed government and the subsequent evacuation of British nationals and local allies.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson announced a new settlement scheme, which would allow up to 20,000 Afghan vulnerable refugees to seek sanctuary in the UK over the coming years.

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On Tuesday night, Boris Johnson announced a new settlement scheme, which would allow up to 20,000 Afghan vulnerable refugees to seek sanctuary in the UK over the coming years.

And the PM is expected to tell MPs of the steps the international community needs to take to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, including the immediate increase in humanitarian aid to the country and the surrounding region as well as a longer-term project to support refugees.

But the settlement scheme was criticised as falling short of what was needed, and the PM can expect to come under fire from former Armed Services personnel on his own backbenches as he updates MPs on the work done to mitigate the crisis so far.

Protests are also planned outside of Parliament calling for support for Afghans and their families who have worked with the allies.

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Speaking to US President Joe Biden on Tuesday night, Mr Johnson stressed the importance of work in the region and not to lose the gains of the last 20 years.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister and President Biden agreed on the need for the global community to come together to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”

While Home Secretary Priti Patel, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said although the UK had committed to taking in 5,000 refugees who were at risk of persecution by the Taliban in the first year of the new settlement scheme – and up to 20,000 overall – the country could not take all the strain alone.

She said: “The UK is also doing all it can to encourage other countries to help. Not only do we want to lead by example, we cannot do this alone.”

The newspaper reported that the Prime Minister had spoken to the French and German governments, and Ms Patel led talks with the Five Eyes intelligence alliance – comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – to identify safe and legal routes for those who need to leave Afghanistan.

But opposition parties said this was not enough and criticised the scope of the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, which will give priority to women and girls, and religious and other minorities.

Human rights groups also hit out at Government plans over immigration more widely.

The Government said the new scheme was in addition to the 5,000 Afghans already expected to move to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which is designed to offer local allies such as interpreters priority relocation to the UK.

Government figures showed 2,000 have already arrived under the ARAP programme.

Since Saturday, officials said 520 British nationals, diplomats and former Afghan staff have left Afghanistan on UK military flights.

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