On Wednesday 18 August, MPs met to discuss the UK's response to the crisis in Afghanistan. A number of MPs are calling for urgent changes tot the asylum system to welcome Afghan refugees.

At JCWI we are urging the Home Secretary to:

  • Scrap the 'resettlement-only' plans set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill, that would criminalise or deny full refugee status to those who make their own journeys to seek asylum in the UK
  • Grant immediate asylum to Afghans already waiting for status in the UK
  • Release all Afghan nationals from detention
  • Expand the family reunion route so that Afghans can be joined by other members of their family, such as parents and siblings
  • Join the international effort to evacuate and resettle Afghan nationals

100 organisations, and 41 crossbench MPs, have written to the Home Secretary to urge reforms to protect Afghan refugees. Read the letter in English | لیک په پښتو ولولئ

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Key moments from the discussion 

The Prime Minister has committed to ending the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers. However he did not commit to granting refugee status to all those waiting for it in the UK, or freeing all Afghans currently held in detention.

Keir Starmer MP points out that the Home Office has already broken promises to Afghan refugees.

Liz Saville Roberts MP raises previous promises made to refugees that were broken. In 2017, the Government wound down a scheme to relocate children, after meeting a little over 10% of the target. Liz Saville Roberts asks whether Government promises on refugee resettlement can be trusted.

Emma Hardy MP highlights how inflexible immigration rules are separating Afghan families. Telling the story of one of her constituents, whose wife remains in Afghanistan, in an area that is now cut off from communication due to Taliban forces; "he didn't put an application in for her to come to this country because of the English language requirement on the application form. Surely now is the time to relax that rule." 

Caroline Lucas MP calls on the government to scrap the 'resettlement-only' plan set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will criminalise or deny full refugee status to those who make their own journeys to seek asylum in the UK.

John Baron MP speaks on the need to save lives and focus on need rather than arbitrary targets.

"Numbers matter less than need" says Stella Creasy MP. She critiques the false distinction between resettlement and asylum. "The same ministers who proudly boast about stopping boats ... forget to tell you that it's Afghans on those boats - it's people who've been fleeing this situation."

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Layla Moran MP says "This should be a starting point, not a target", pointing out that the plan to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees over several years, amounts to just 30 people per constituency. We can do better than this.

"A hazy 20,000 figure... is insubstantial to say the least" - Dave Doogan MP spoke about the urgent need for the Government to meet the scale of the crisis.

What happens now?

There is still very little detail about the resettlement programme, how it will operate and how anyone can access it. Along with other campaigners we will continue to push for a more generous scheme and for it to be put into action urgently. But our concerns are wider than this scheme alone.

History will judge how the UK responds to this crisis. We must protect Afghan refugees here in the UK, and those who arrive over the coming weeks and months. Together, we must stand against the anti-refugee bill, and for the fairer, welcoming society we believe in.

Stand in solidarity with refugees - join us today