The Asylum Welcome community in Oxfordshire is extremely concerned about the devastating situation in Afghanistan and how this is affecting thousands of Afghan refugees in Oxfordshire. We are glad to hear that the Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced the resettlement of 5,000 refugees this year ‘with the potential of accommodating up to 20,000 over the long term.’ However, Asylum Welcome strongly believes that we have the obligation and the capacity to resettle more than 5,000 Afghan refugees in the short term, considering the number of people who are now living in a deeply dangerous and life-threatening situation in Afghanistan.
It is clear that the number of 5,000 is not based on any evidence or assessment, but has been picked randomly by the Home Office, perhaps to echo the Syrian resettlement scheme of 2015-2020. This number does not reflect the scale of the situation, the urgency, or the degree of UK involvement. The commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees over the next five years is not an emergency response, and it does nothing for those whose lives are in immediate danger. We are concerned by reports that this resettlement scheme will only be open to Afghan refugees who are currently based in a third country. We must ensure that this meagre resettlement scheme is not used as a way to delegitimise or criminalise those who arrive to the UK via other routes.
Indeed, the Prime Minister has made clear that the government will ‘not be allowing people to come from Afghanistan to this country in an indiscriminate way.’ This appears to say that Afghans who arrive in the UK via unsafe routes will not automatically be granted asylum despite the clear threat of persecution. The Home Secretary has hinted elsewhere that, in line with the content of the Nationality and Borders Bill, Afghan refugees who arrive in the UK via unsafe routes will not be treated in the same way as those who arrive through the government’s resettlement scheme. Considering just 5,000 people will have access to this scheme over the next year, and we have no idea when this scheme will be up and running, how it will function, or how candidates will be selected, this would be tantamount to depriving all but 5,000 Afghan refugees one of their fundamental human rights: the right to seek and claim asylum.
Since the early hours of Afghanistan falling to the hands of Taliban, we have been in touch with our Afghan clients, Afghan community and its leaders by offering our support, demonstrating our solidarity with them and providing practical support and information when we could. We understand that this is a desperate situation and our clients are rightly concerned about their family, friends and others in their communities. So although here at AW we will do all we can to help, we would like to ask all other community organisations to demonstrate their support and sympathy with our Afghan community.
Asylum Welcome is also working closely with local MPs and other relevant national organisations to call on local and national UK authorities to urgently respond to the current situation by offering practical and moral support to Afghan people. For instance, we have joined The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants in signing a joint letter which calls on governments to:
- Grant immediate protection to Afghan nationals with ongoing protection claims
- Release Afghan nationals from detention, given the fact that removals cannot be safely carried out
- Ensure relocation schemes are open to all at-risk professions
Over the coming days, we will be working on coordinating a multi-organisational response to supporting refugees arriving in Oxfordshire. Please keep checking back here for regular updates over the coming days and weeks.
We also would like to ask people to let us know if they have any enquiry about this matter by contacting Office@asylum-welcome.org. If you are interested in hosting please contact our partners Sanctuary Hosting who run a scheme in the Thames valley: http://sanctuaryhosting.org/