This August there has been an emergency evacuation from Afghanistan. Lives of UK nationals, our armed forces and Afghans who have worked with them have been at stake. Sadly, three UK nationals lost their lives in a cowardly bombing outside Kabul airport. It is with relief and gratitude that all those UK armed forces involved in the evacuation have returned home safely. It is with sadness and thanks that we remember all those in the armed forces who have lost their lives or been injured in the long Afghan conflict. As the Prime Minister said, their sacrifice has not been in vain. Making us all safer at home as well as helping the Afghan people.
Since last year I have been a Ministerial aide, a PPS, in the Ministry of Defence. So I have been involved in managing requests for evacuation from MPs of all parties. A major challenge for the teams from the Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office and Home Office was identifying, locating and evacuating those at immediate risk of harm and death from the Taliban from those who simply didn’t want to live under their rule. It has also meant stopping those who mean us harm.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those Afghan people who have put themselves at immediate risk of torture and death because of their direct work with our armed forces over the last 20 years. It is this group, called the ARAP group, who have been the military priority to evacuate, and Dover District Council, under leader Cllr Trevor Bartlett and Armed Forces Champion Cllr Oliver Richardson, are part of the national scheme to support them. ARAP personnel and their families have rightly been given sanctuary in the UK, fast-tracked through safe and legal routes of entry.
The United Nations refugee agency have confirmed in recent days that most people remain close to areas of conflict or move internally within those countries affected. This is where the UK programmes provide the greatest support. Our country has global programmes for people to apply to come to the UK through safe and legal routes and these are being expanded. However, there have been numerous cases of fraud in recent days – people identified who have spied for the Taliban or are on the UK ‘no fly’ list. We risk the safety and security of those we love if we do not support those whose work it is to keep us safe.
Now is a time to be generous to those in need. But also to recognise that if we are doing the right thing by other people, then they should do right by us too. It is not the right thing to enter Britain through unlawful routes, paying criminal gangs to do so, when you are already safe in another country. There are millions of people who need our help. Let’s make sure it gets to people who need it most.