My thoughts are of course with the Afghan people, as the Taliban’s return to power has created a humanitarian crisis and will likely have a profound impact on women’s rights; education and the ability of human rights defenders to push for progressive change within the country.

There is now a serious refugee emergency in the region and an urgent need for the UK to meet its obligations to Afghan refugees. The immediate priority must be to create safe and secure routes for refugees to leave Afghanistan, and the burden for this cannot fall upon neighbouring countries who have already taken in significant numbers of refugees. Pakistan alone currently hosts around 3 million Afghan refugees, while Iran hosts around 780,000 registered refugees, with over 2 million unregistered.
I believe that we must play our part in welcoming people seeking safety, and develop a multinational plan to help refugees. However, given our role in Afghanistan- alongside the US and NATO allies – I believe that we have additional responsibilities to the Afghan people that go beyond the moral obligation of every safe country to host refugees. I am currently doing everything I can to support constituents and their families who have been affected by this crisis.

Shamefully, the Conservative Government has only committed to taking 20,000 refugees over the next five years. This is simply not good enough. It fails the Afghan people, and the Government must do more.

I backed calls for the Government to expand the ‘Afghan Interpreters Scheme’ to include those previously ineligible for resettlement, including family members and third-party contractors who are in now in significant danger by remaining in the country. These people acted with incredible bravery and it would be morally reprehensible for the UK to abandon them now.

As well as supporting those attempting to leave Afghanistan, there must be a concerted effort to support those who remain in the country, as well as a robust diplomatic effort that engages regional powers to ensure stability. This will need to cover humanitarian support, a response to rising poverty, respect for human, democratic and civil rights especially those of women and girls, and the right to self-determination for the people of Afghanistan.

In support of these goals, I have signed a cross-party letter from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) calling for urgent humanitarian support for Afghan nationals. You can read this letter below:

While humanitarian support for the Afghan people is the immediate priority, we must also learn the lessons from this decades long conflict, including how it began, how it was conducted, and how it ended. For government to function, we need political accountability or past mistakes will continue to be repeated.

From 2001-2021 the Afghanistan War displaced countless civilians and caused the deaths of around a quarter of a million people, including 47,000 Afghan civilians, as well as 457 British soldiers. I have consistently opposed the war in Afghanistan, which has repeatedly been the subject of large protests around the world. Opponents of the war have long pointed out that the invasion would lead to the deaths of many civilians through the bombing campaign and by preventing humanitarian aid.

There have also been ongoing questions raised as to whether the war was illegal. The use of force in international law is generally prohibited, except under three circumstances: in self-defence, via a UN Security Council resolution, or with consent from the leader of an invaded state. Many have argued that the war in Afghanistan does not fall under any of these categories. In my view, invasions and occupations are wrong, violate the right to sovereignty, and don’t deliver viable and sustainable political settlements. Of course, I oppose attacks on civilian populations in any circumstances.

In my opinion, public transparency and political accountability for military interventions are the best way to respect the hundreds of British servicemen and women and civilian personnel who have lost their lives during the invasion and all the thousands of others who are still living with the injuries they suffered when serving in the armed forces.

I know that the public now want lessons to be learnt, and it is clear to many that the “War on Terror” has not addressed the complex political issues at hand, and has had a profound human cost. I believe that international relations should be based on resolving disputes and tackling problems of poverty and underdevelopment, and I can assure you that I will remain committed to these principles.

Mary

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