Afghan Citizens: Asylum Policies

Home Department – in the House of Commons on 5th September 2022.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

What assessment she has made of the potential impact of her asylum policies on Afghan citizens seeking refuge and humanitarian protection in the UK.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Our United Kingdom has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need through our resettlement schemes. The new plan for immigration will ensure that our resources can be focused on those in most need of resettlement around the world, including in Afghanistan, rather than on those who can pay a people smuggler.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Does the Minister share my concern regarding the findings of nine expert groups last month, including Humans Rights Watch, which found the UK Government’s resettlement schemes to be “unjustifiably restrictive”, and that it is deeply concerning that the UK Government are not offering a safe route for many Afghan women and girls, or to oppressed minority groups?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Well, I look at our record, which includes last year’s evacuation—the largest since the war—to bring people to safety here in the United Kingdom, and at the work we are doing week in, week out with colleagues, particularly in the Ministry of Defence, to bring more people to safety. We need to focus our efforts on those who need resettlement and safety and are under threat in Afghanistan, rather than on those who prefer to be here than in another safe and democratic country.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Will the Minister confirm that the Government still hold in a special place in their priorities those Afghans who assisted the British armed forces when they were present in Afghanistan? May I thank the Minister and the Home Secretary for the work of those in the specialist hub, whether in Portcullis House or remotely, who have done outstanding work in enabling MPs on both sides of the House to help people fleeing from persecution?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his remarks about the work that has been done by Home Office teams via the hub. Those people who worked with UK operations, particularly the military operation in Afghanistan, would liaise primarily with our colleagues in the Ministry of Defence, who hold the records and will do the relevant checks under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme. We then look to work with them to facilitate the relocation of those people to the UK, where that is deemed appropriate.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

We owe loyal-to-Britain Afghans a debt of gratitude and honour, yet with 10,000 of them still stuck in bridging hotels, at huge cost to their mental health and a cost of £1.4 million a day to the taxpayer, it looks as though Operation Warm Welcome has become operation cold shoulder. It is little wonder that the Minister for Refugees resigned yesterday in despair. Further still, the Government have broken their promises to vulnerable Afghan groups such as women judges and LGBT activists. Can the Minister therefore tell us why, if British Council employees and Chevening scholars can apply for asylum in the UK from within Afghanistan, pathway 2 of the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme does not allow women judges and LGBT activists to do the same? Does he accept that these failures put Afghan lives at risk, bearing in mind that the Taliban have already conducted at least 160 reprisal killings?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I know that whoever takes office this week can look forward to plenty of attacks but few alternatives from the hon. Gentleman. We are proud of what we have done. As I said, last year we arranged one of the biggest evacuations since the war years and a rapid process to bring people here. About 7,400 people have moved into new homes since the first ARAP flight in June, which is an unprecedented pace of resettlement. Yes, there is more work to do; we are working with local authorities to do that and to find more homes, but we have to be clear: it is about working with local communities, particularly given the size and scale of accommodation, particularly family accommodation, that needs to be provided across the country.