MPs in Southwark frantically trying to help British constituents trapped in Afghanistan and resettle Afghans at risk of persecution have called on the government to step up its efforts.
Harman spoke at Wednesday’s parliamentary debate on Afghanistan, where both Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab were roundly criticised, including by their own MPs, for the government’s handling of the crisis.
“We have all looked on in horror as the events in Afghanistan have unfolded,” she told the chamber.
“I join everyone who is urging the prime minister and foreign secretary to do everything they can to help UK nationals, including my constituents, who are stranded and in hiding in Kabul and desperately needing to get back home to the UK.”
She added: “The government is setting up a refugee resettlement programme, and I would urge the government to make a realistic and generous assessment of the scale of the need.”
PM @10DowningStreet & Foreign Sec @DominicRaab must do all poss to rescue UK nationals, incl my Camb & Peck constituents, stranded in Kabul. UK has moral obligation to evacuate those who worked with/for us & generous refugee resettlement . My speech in #Afghanistancrisis debate? pic.twitter.com/p8d7NqI7cC
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) August 18, 2021
Helen Hayes has also said her ‘urgent priority’ is helping affected constituents.
Though not called to speak during the debate, in a statement published this week the Dulwich and West Norwood MP said she supported a judge-led inquiry into the multiple failures of judgement’ that led to the crisis.
“The thin and inadequate offer of 20,000 refugee places in the UK, only 5,000 to be provided this year, is completely unacceptable,” she said.
“Afghans – many of whom worked to support UK armed forces or worked in fields such as women’s education – are fleeing for their lives, and in withdrawing the support on the ground in Afghanistan which helped to keep them safe, the UK government now has a responsibility to provide a safe haven.”
Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle says he is now involved in ten cases, trying to help desperate families but a government webpage with guidance on the resettlement scheme as yet has no information with details to be announced in ‘due course’.
Meanwhile Southwark Council says it is ‘seeking further dialogue’ with Afghan community leaders in the borough to help direct support to refugees.
It is backing the national Labour Party’s call for an Afghan refugee resettlement programme to be put in place with target numbers from Afghanistan.
Harman has also called on the government to create a new ministerial position responsible for liaising with women in Afghanistan, rather than the PM and foreign secretary ‘simply talking to other male leaders’.
A joint statement signed by council leader Kieron Williams, deputy Jasmine Ali, equalities cabinet member Alice Mcdonald and MPs Harriet Harman, Neil Coyle and Helen Hayes said: “We have particular concern for women and girls facing cruel repression and discrimination, and for all those Afghans who have supported the British civil and military authorities in their country in various ways.
“With more than three million people in Afghanistan displaced, we must all do our share to minimise the scale of the unfolding catastrophe.”
And, this week, Harman and 173 women MPs now signed a letter showing support for all 69 Afghan women MPs, saying they are ‘dismayed at the situation’ in the country, and ‘stand in solidarity’ with women politicians who have dedicated their lives to building a democracy and are now in danger of reprisals from the Taliban.
It is the first time in history that all women MPs in parliament, across party lines, have united with one voice.