Afghan refugees sit around a makeshift tent shelter on the outskirts of Quetta Pic: Banaras Khan/AFP via Getty Images
The new Nationality and Borders Bill currently being discussed in parliament would mean more than 9000 people who would normally be accepted as refugees under the current rules will no longer be given safety in the UK due to their method of arrival, according to the analysis of the Refugee Council.
Now the leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, is calling on all members to oppose the “anti refugee” bill and pledge support to the campaigns against it by the Scottish Refugee Council and other organisations.
A motion which highlights the horror of the tragic situation in Afghanistan – which saw the collapse of the democratically elected government and the country taken over by the Taliban – will be presented this Thursday.
Councillor Aitken is hoping the council will express its deep sympathy and solidarity with the Afghan people and their community within Glasgow, many of whom came to the city as refugees from war, and who now live in fear for the safety of family members still living in Afghanistan.
The motion reads: “This council deeply regrets that the sacrifices and losses suffered by the Afghan people and UK and international armed forces personnel have led to this outcome and believes that it counts among the biggest foreign policy failures of modern times.
“The council particularly fears for the safety of Afghan women and girls, recalling that when the Taliban were last in control, women and girls were denied education, employment, participation in public life and freedom of movement and stripped of their most basic liberties and human rights.
“The council is extremely sceptical of Taliban claims that this won’t be repeated and urges the UK Government not to take any statements of assurance by the Taliban at face value.”
So far Glasgow has agreed to receive 64 refugees under the UK Government Afghan Resettlement Scheme and officers are working to identify suitable accommodation to house more refugees.
Councillor Aitken believes that the UK’s Afghan Refugee Resettlement Scheme currently falls short of what is required to help reduce the scale of the unfolding humanitarian emergency.
She argues that past actions of UK governments have significantly contributed to the creation of this crisis and that the UK has a moral obligation to do everything it can do aid the Afghan people, in particular women, children and those on whom the Taliban is likely to seek vengeance for having served in the Afghan armed forces or other national institutions.
The motion continues: “ The council therefore calls on the UK Government to go further and faster in its response both in the provision of aid and in supporting the evacuation and safe resettlement of Afghan nationals, ensuring that further immediate resources are made available to support local authorities to significantly increase the numbers of Afghan refugees they are able to accommodate.
“The council notes finally that the proposals in the UK Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill – which would breach the UN Refugee Convention by seeking to criminalise asylum-seeking people who arrive in the UK via another country, reduce the rights of refugees living in the UK and diminish the support given to asylum seekers – are even more egregious in the light of the Afghan refugee crisis.
“The council pledges its support to campaigns by the Scottish Refugee Council and others to oppose this anti-refugee bill.”