LONDON: Labour has urged the government not to “abandon” Afghan workers who helped British forces by allowing more of them to settle in the UK. Many interpreters and other former staff are fearing for their lives as the Taliban continues to extend its control over the whole of Afghanistan.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the UK had to put in “specific and safe” asylum routes. The government has said it should get more than 1,000 people a day to the UK.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC the biggest barrier to increasing the rate of evacuation was not a lack of capacity on planes but “how quickly” people can be processed by officials.
The UK has also sent around 600 UK troops to assist the withdrawal, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising to get “all those who have helped the UK effort over 20 years” out of Afghanistan “as fast as we can”.
Mr Thomas-Symonds has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel, asking for an update on the numbers of those being helped. “The situation in Afghanistan is truly awful,” he said. “We must now live up to our obligations, especially to those Afghan people who worked so bravely with British representatives in Afghanistan.
“Our resettlement scheme must urgently be expanded to ensure people to whom we owe a huge debt are not abandoned. This process must include looking to help Afghan workers who helped in vital areas such as military, media and those who supported the work of the Department for International Development.”
Mr Thomas-Symonds also said the Taliban’s return was likely to “drive many thousands of people from their homes, with women and girls at particular risk”, adding: “The UK government must put in place specific safe and legal asylum routes to help provide support.”
Last week the government said about 2,000 Afghan interpreters and “other people we have an obligation to” would also be transported to the UK, joining about 3,000 who have already been taken out of the country.
Mr Wallace told BBC Breakfast: “Our flights, our planning and coming in and out and soon if we manage to keep it in the way we’re planning to, we should have capacity for over 1,000 people a day to exit to the UK.
“Currently this is not about capacity on planes; it’s about processing speed. So that’s why we’re trying to fix that.”
He added: “If we can manage to keep the airport running in the way we are putting in place our people to deliver, then I’m confident that by the end of the month we could get everyone out and actually hopefully sooner.
“There will be some people left behind. We made that clear in the last few weeks. I’m not going to raise expectations.” But ministers would “do our very best” to get those eligible out of Afghanistan by 31 August, he added.
Appearing on LBC radio, Mr Wallace was close to tears as he said that “some people won’t get back”, adding: “It’s sad the West has done what it’s done.”
Foreign forces are pulling out of Afghanistan following a deal between the US and the Taliban militants they removed from power back in 2001.
The Taliban has pledged not to allow Afghanistan to become a base for terrorists who could threaten the West.