Socialist Worker

Cruel Tory asylum system awaits Afghan refugees

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2770

Protesting in Glasgow in 2018 after 300 refugees were threatened with eviction

Protesting in Glasgow in 2018 after 300 refugees were threatened with eviction (Pic: Duncan Brown)


The situation for Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban and arriving in Britain is becoming ever more critical.

The small number who have been successfully lifted out of Kabul already face immediate shortages of clothes and assistance. They also face potentially years of waiting in limbo in the asylum system.

As of Sunday, around 5,000 British nationals and their families had been airlifted from Kabul. So had more than 8,000 Afghan former British staff and their families and those considered at risk from the Taliban.

For those who aren’t immediately granted refugees status and housing, a long wait in limbo in the asylum system awaits.

In addition to those who’ve just arrived 3,000 other Afghans are already locked into the system and over 70,000 others have pending application.

In Birmingham refugees were forced to wait for eight hours on their plane with little food after it had landed—with no explanation as to why.

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Passengers, including children, were eventually let off the plane and made to spend the night at the airport.

Eventually they were told the wait was due to a delay in processing the details of refugees from four previous flights—showing how disorganised the Tories’ rescue mission has been.

Some refugees arrived shoeless, and some toddlers had no change of nappies or sanitary products.

The British Red Cross described scenes of “chaos”, with some refugees passing out from exhaustion upon arrival.

Flights into London, Birmingham and Manchester have seen pregnant women and the sick being rushed to hospitals for urgent medical attention. For those on early flights doctors weren’t provided to urgently prescribe medicine, meaning ambulances became quickly overwhelmed.

Essential

Emergency workers described scenes at airports as “shocking” as thousands of people are being ­processed then transported to quarantine hotels up to 100 miles away.

Aid is urgently being rushed to Manchester too. The Care for Calais charity has been collecting essential items such baby food, toiletries, blankets, headscarves, prayer mats and clothes.

Many refugees have also been forced to flee without their family. Afghan charity workers in Britain say the 20,000 the Tories are willing to accept is only a fifth of what is really needed for families to stay together.

And those who have made it over will now struggle to be reunited with family as strict earnings caps are in place before families can be reunited.

Medical experts have warned all the trauma suffered from the escape will be compounded if they are not settled quickly into Britain.

But the reality of what they face will be consistent with how asylum seekers in barracks and hotels are treated—with no help at all.

Experts are calling for quick and clear communication about rehousing and accommodation. But the Home Office’s prioritisation has never been the welfare of asylum seekers and refugees.

The Tories might be patting ­themselves on the back but there is little to celebrate for refugees when they get to Britain.

People who have suffered war and trauma are now being left in the asylum system for years ­without assistance or having their cases resolved.


Napier barracks stays open

The Home Office plans to use the detention-like ex-military Napier Barrack in Kent to house

asylum seekers until at least 2025.

The decrepit barracks has been used since September 2020 and has housed more than 400 asylum seekers in 14 dormitories.

Inspections and court cases have ruled the site unfit for purpose—but the Tories are pushing ahead.

Home secretary Priti Patel has already come under fire for going ahead with the use of the barracks despite being warned by Public Health England not to.

A Covid-19 outbreak in January saw 197 asylum seekers catch the virus. But the Home Office has refilled the site since April with hundreds forced into the “filthy” conditions.

Many trapped in the camp have fled torture and camps—only to face yet another camp on arrival in Britain.

This is the punishment the Tories will give those who flee to Britain—dilapidated and run down accommodation.


Britain won’t provide help

Throughout the evacuation process, Britain has prioritised rescuing British nationals from Afghanistan, with almost all now being flown out.

Second on the list has been British-Afghan nationals—many who are now trapped in Kabul and face the reality of being left behind.

At the bottom of the pecking order are vulnerable people desperate to flee a war-torn country, abandoned by the very country that caused the war.

Hundreds of thousands will now try to travel to camps on the Pakistan border—a country already hosting 1.4 million Afghan refugees.

Many Afghan nationals eligible to come to Britain under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) launched earlier this year will also be left behind.

Processing

Thousands of people eligible for help, including their families, won’t receive any as the British processing centre was finally shut on Friday.

And many more who could not get to the airports in time will also be left behind.

Mohamad, a 32 year old mechanic from Derby and a British citizen since 2012, had been waiting outside the airport gates for five days. “It’s horrible. The guards are shooting in the air, no one has been injured but everyone is scared,” he said.

Although his wife does not have British citizenship, he had been told she was eligible for evacuation alongside him. “We’re holding our passports up in the air and waving them. We need help. We are all very scared,” he added.

Having had months to prepare for removal from Afghanistan, the Tories have utterly failed to help people in need.


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