The Afghanistan Crisis – what is going on?
by Laxmi Mall and Chloe Moller
With many Afghan citizens fleeing the country in fear of persecution, the debate surrounding the rights of refugees and asylum seekers has resurfaced. At Lennons, we are calling for a kinder, fairer approach to supporting them.
The Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has dominated the news cycle with many world leaders expressing concerns over the treatment of the people there. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, made a recent statement detailing the serious human rights concerns surrounding the recent unrest in Afghanistan.
Who is a refugee?
A refugee is defined under the Refugee Convention 1951 (“the Convention”) as someone who has fled their country due to a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.
In the UK, refugee status is granted to those the Home Office recognises as refugees under this definition. When an individual achieves official refugee status, they are usually given leave to remain in the UK for up to five years, after which they can apply for settlement or Indefinite Leave to Remain.
What rights do refugees have under the Convention?
Refugees should receive at least the same rights and basic help as any other foreigner who is a legal resident, including the right to lawful stay in the UK, right to work, study, claim housing and welfare benefits, and access to free healthcare. However, as asylum figures have risen, refugees have faced significant obstacles in obtaining adequate protection.
The Nationality and Borders Bill, which could introduce a two-tier system of refugee protection, is currently making its way through parliament. Experts believe that this bill risks punishing asylum seekers who arrive in the UK illegally, making it harder for refugees to receive the protection they need. If the bill is passed, it could criminalise Afghans who arrive in the UK using illegal means. This is concerning as Afghan refugees will likely have no choice over how they escape, especially with the growing concerns surrounding the safety of Kabul airport.
Government’s response to the Afghanistan crisis
The Taliban have threatened to close their boarders by the 31st of August, meaning thousands of individuals wishing to flee their country will be trapped in a state which does not recognise their most basic human rights. In the past week 12,279 people have been fleeing out of the country, however Minster James Heappey states how there will still be “people who are in danger who won’t be evacuated” before the 31st August deadline.
The Government has agreed to welcoming 20,000 refugees over the next five years under their new resettlement plan which prioritises women, children, and religious minorities who are considered ‘most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban’. However, charities such as Amnesty International UK have called on the UK government to urgently do more to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan to get safety. Amnesty International UK suggest that the UK government should ensure that the visa requirements are not delaying the necessary evacuation of Afghan refugees and that they should drop proposals in the Nationality and Borders Bill that aim to criminalise people seeking asylum in the UK simply because they have had to make a dangerous journey to the UK without a visa.
How we can get involved
There are so many ways in which you can get involved and support the refugees. For instance, Herts for Refugees are a local charity that are committed to helping refugees through raising money to fund projects and distributing donated clothes to refugees. At present they are asking for following donations; new underwear, new socks, unlocked/wiped smartphones, trainers in good condition. If you are able to donate, there is a drop off box inside St Peter’s Church, Berkhamsted.
The following links provide useful updates on what donations are needed and to which country they will be going to.
If you would like to learn more about the human right breaches that refugees face, please click here to read an article by Amnesty International UK.
At Lennons Solicitors, we are committed to creating a fair and inclusive culture where everyone feels that they belong and are comfortable being themselves. To learn more about our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee, please click here.