READY TO HELP: A STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN
The Harbour Project is ready and committed to playing as full a role as possible to help those engulfed by the unfolding tragedy in Afghanistan. We know there are no easy solutions: not for those arriving nor those with national or civic responsibility for their welfare. But we also know we can make a real difference.
Innocent, ordinary people from Afghanistan, like those from many other countries, have found refuge and lived quietly and peacefully in Swindon for years, working and contributing to the town. We currently help around 50 Afghan people who arrived here before the present crisis, and who now fear for their families and friends as they receive reports of them having no access to food, shelter or money. While there is currently no safe way out for them, many people have been displaced without documentation and therefore fear they will not be able to access safe routes out of the country when they do become available.
While we remain fully committed to our programme of support for all the people we serve, from across the world, we are also ready now to commit additional resources, and to work with others, in support of local and national initiatives that we would like to see regarding Afghanistan (recognising that such initiatives would inevitably involve us and others in extra costs).
- i) We gratefully acknowledge SBC’s support over the years, and the town’s welcome to refugees. We now urge Swindon Borough Council to put plans in place to accommodate more refugees from Afghanistan.ii) We ask SBC to consider joining an Afghan Resettlement Scheme, given the significantly larger numbers predicted to be needing help compared with the earlier Syrian scheme which it decided not to support.
ii) We urge the UK government to offer sanctuary on a basis of need and however people arrive here, and not by quotas; and to do all that it can to secure safe exit routes from Afghanistan.
We are already trying to help resolve practical matters that urgently require clarification by The Home Office:
- i) What happens to Afghan people already here and awaiting a decision on their Asylum Claim? How can anyone be returned to Afghanistan now?ii) What happens to Afghan people arriving, or on their way to the UK, by routes other than UK airlifts?
iii) How can Afghan people in the UK request prioritisation for exit visas for their families stranded in Afghanistan.
We are very grateful to everyone who is offering us help in response to the situation in Afghanistan, and for the ongoing and longstanding support of many individuals and organisations across Swindon and beyond.
Although the Afghan community bears the brunt of the trauma now, what we are witnessing is representative of the pain and terror experienced by people from many other countries experiencing similar atrocities. We remain united as The Harbour ‘family’ in supporting them all and each other.
As a society it feels as though we have become immune to images of people in inflatables crossing the Channel to seek help. These new scenes of parents handing children to strangers, or people falling from aircraft, remind us of what lies behind being a refugee in today’s world and the desperate journeys people are forced to embark on to find safety.