Boris Johnson must urgently rethink the UK’s resettlement scheme for people in Afghanistan to save lives at immediate risk from the Taliban, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.
Scotland’s first minister has urged the prime minister to increase the commitment to welcome 5,000 refugees in the next year and a total of 20,000 Afghan refugees over the “long-term”.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, the SNP leader said: “We are concerned that the commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees in ‘the long-term’ and just 5,000 in the first year is not sufficient in the context of the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “We believe a commitment to a substantial increase in numbers is required and urgently seek further details of how civilians, especially women, girls and others in need of refuge will be protected.”
She said Nato countries should avoid a “cut-and-run operation” in Afghanistan as thousands seek to get on flights out of Kabul’s airport – but the US made clear on Tuesday that the evacuation will end by 31 August.
The SNP has called for parliament to be “recalled immediately” for an update on the UK’s evacuation and resettlement plans – saying the failure to persuade the US to push back its deadline was “deeply regrettable”.
The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said: “The UK parliament must be recalled immediately so that ministers can provide daily updates and MPs can properly scrutinise plans for the evacuation, refugee resettlement, and efforts to tackle humanitarian and security concerns.”
Mr Blackford added: “It would be unacceptable for the prime minister to avoid scrutiny by keeping parliament in recess for another fortnight.”
Refugee charities have said the UK’s short-term commitment to resettle 5,000 Afghan citizens was “too little” to meet the scale of the immediate crisis. Both Conservative and Labour MPs have also urged ministers to use the programme for people trying to flee the country “right now”.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and the Conservtaive Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Defence Committee, said it should be implemented on “an interim basis”.
Organisations involved in refugee resettlement say there is “confusion” in the way the scheme has been presented, because the process typically takes place only once people have fled their country of origin.
The Independent has backed calls from MPs and charities for No 10 to expand its plan to resettle Afghans at risk of losing their lives in the Taliban takeover.
Our Refugees Welcome campaign is calling for the government to offer sanctuary to as many Afghans as possible – and for local authorities and charities devoted to their welfare to be given the strongest possible support.