Afghanistan: FCDO Update - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:03 pm on 7th September 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 9:03 pm, 7th September 2021

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Collins, I pay tribute to the service men and women, the diplomats and indeed the Minister himself for the huge efforts put into place under Operation Pitting and in the weeks following the end of the evacuation. But as we heard during the previous Statement, there are some serious questions to be asked about the nature of the evacuation and why we needed to evacuate when we did. A longer-term inquiry may be the time for those questions.

In the shorter term, there are questions about how many people we have left behind. There is clearly the question of how many British nationals who want to leave are still in Afghanistan. My understanding is that all were encouraged to leave back in April; some have chosen not to. If British nationals have chosen to stay, that is their choice, but do the Government have a sense of how many individuals want to leave? Is there a difficulty for people with dual nationality? Will the Taliban make it difficult for people with British and Afghan citizenship to leave? If so, are the Government seeking assurances that people with British passports will have the opportunity for safe passage?

What are the Government realistically able to offer those who have been offered a place under ARAP but have not yet been able to leave the country? The Statements suggest that everyone who has currently been offered a place under ARAP will be able to leave. Is that realistic? Should those of us who are trying to support the British Council and others on individual cases say that, yes, those people will be got out, or do we have to say that realistically we cannot guarantee that?

Beyond those who have already been offered a place under ARAP, what about those second-tier contractors—for example, for the British Council—who have not yet been given the right to come? What hope is there for them? Beyond that, for interpreters and others who worked for the MoD, my understanding is that the MoD has done a great job of getting the interpreters out now, but many others worked alongside our service personnel: the cooks and the people who did the laundry—a whole set of people whose lives are very vulnerable. Where do they feature in the Government’s thinking? Can they be assured of safe passage?

What sort of support will the Government be able to offer, directly or indirectly, to those who are currently away from their homes because they moved towards Kabul hoping to be able to get to the Baron hotel and on to a flight, and who now find themselves without food, shelter or money because they cannot access their bank accounts?