Delivering humanitarian aid is key to stop refugees arriving on our shores
As we discuss who is to blame for the worst tragedy of its kind in Channel history, which killed 27 people as their boats sunk, it is worth noting that they were from Iraqi Kurd and Afghan nationalities.
So, before we look at the urgent immigration crisis that is unfolding, we need to correct the term we use to describe them to ensure we understand the plight of those who are fleeing to the UK.
Anyone who risks their lives for safety is escaping war and conflict and should be referred to as “refugees” not “migrants”. The people jumping onto those dinghies know there is a very high chance of them never making it to the UK, yet still put their lives on the line. But who can blame them for wanting to come here? This is the best country in the world.
However, what they are doing is both dangerous and illegal. Not only are they risking their lives, but also keeping criminal people – traffickers in business.
I know this better than anyone, as a former refugee from Afghanistan myself.
We should not be waiting until the problem reaches our shores before we act
The French must stop playing games and be made to see sense. The rough treatment of refugees by French police in camps on the north French coast has added to the “push” factors driving them towards the UK. There are even reports of French vessels “shepherding” inflatables into UK waters.
Our politicians must do better than idly watch the numbers of refugees continue to rise every day. We should not be waiting until the problem reaches our shores before we act. This tragedy must force the UK government to consider pleas for new, safe, legal routes to Britain for asylum seekers, even if only to reject them.
A key factor that we have overlooked for far too long when tackling immigration, is the correlation between UK’s foreign policy and the number of people crossing the Channel to Britain. We’ve had 2,449 crossing this week alone, taking the number this year to more than 23,500 – almost three times as many as last year’s total of 8,420. One of the main reasons being the NATO and British troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.
Among those left exhausted and hungry on Dungeness beach, was an Afghan soldier and his family, who had been a special forces officer in the Afghan Army and had trained and worked with British and American soldiers. His family decided to risk their lives crossing the Channel after they waited for help from Britain. He told The Times; “Of course we left because of the Taliban. We had a house, we had a life, everything. But the problems started with the Taliban.”
This is exactly what will happen when we remove ourselves from our global obligations and moral responsibility to support people in countries like Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is now facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 95 per cent of its population not having food to eat, 23 million starving from hunger as winter approaches, according to the World Food Programme. We should not be surprised if thousands more Afghans seek illegal and unsafe routes to Europe and cross the channel to Britain in the coming months, as the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme is still not open for applications more than three months after Kabul fell.
There are Afghan female judges, HR activists and many others at high risk who are trapped in Afghanistan in search of a better life.
By delivering emergency humanitarian assistance, ensuring no child starves to death, protecting our friends and allies and working to turn failing national economies into prospering societies, we have the power to create conditions where people don’t feel the need to flee their homes.
It’s time to wake up.
Shabnam Nasimi is the Executive Director of Conservative Friends of Afghanistan.
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