The government’s decision to accept just 5,000 Afghan refugees over the first year of its resettlement scheme has been criticised for leaving vulnerable people in imminent danger.
Details released last night revealed the UK would take over 20,000 refugees over the “long term”, beginning with 5,000 refugees over the next 12 months from 2021.
The scheme resembles that drawn up by the UK in response to the civil war in Syria, when it agreed to take the same number of refugees over the same time frame.
But critics have said that leaves 15,000 people in imminent danger following the rapid takeover of the Taliban at the weekend.
In the debate following the emergency recall of parliament, Labour leader Keir Starmer branded the scheme “vague” and criticised the “long term” plan to settle those fleeing the Taliban.
“For those desperately needing our help there is no long term,” he said.
And Labour’s Chris Bryant said: “The home secretary announced this morning that the UK will be taking 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, but that only 5,000 will be able to come this year.
“What are the 15,000 meant to do - hang around and wait to be executed?”
Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, said the scheme “doesn’t go near far enough or fast enough” and “falls way short of responsibility”.
Prior to the announcement, Conservative MP David Davis told HuffPost UK that the UK had more of a “direct moral responsibility” to offer sanctuary to those fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover than it did in Syria, and said the UK should look to accept “north of 50,000” refugees.
And Lord Dubs, a former child refugee, told The Guardian that while the criteria for prioritising women and children was right, “these people are in danger now and are in desperate need for safety”.
Home secretary Priti Patel also defended the numbers this morning, insisting the UK was “working quickly on this” but that “we cannot accommodate 20,000 people all in one go”.
She told Times Radio: “We have to be realistic in terms of those that we can bring to the country and resettle in a safe and secure way while giving them the right opportunities going forward in resettlement.
“Five thousand is a figure we know we can deliver. It would be irresponsible of us to give false hope, false promises to say that we can go higher.”
She later said the number of Afghan refugees seeking sanctuary in Britain was not capped.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey urged the government to drastically increase its uptake of refugees under the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme, saying the UK should accept 20,000 over the next year.
“My worry is the government only proposing to resettle 5,000 over the next year or so,” he told the BBC.” The Liberal Democrats think it should be 20,000 over the next year.
“We know it’s hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are at risk. Britain needs to play a part, with other countries, and we need to play a part urgently.
“That’s why the Liberal Democrats have said that, as a bare minimum, we should be taking 20,000 people over the next year. The government’s commitment to 20,000 is over the long term, whatever that is.”