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‘The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments’ says City MP on Afghanistan debate

Today (Wednesday 18 August 2021) Parliament was recalled to allow MPs to receive an update from the Government on the shocking and worsening situation in Afghanistan.

Speaking in the debate, Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Opposition, said:

“20 years ago, the Taliban were largely in control of Afghanistan. Al Qaida were using the country as a training ground and a base for terror – including plotting the horrific 9/11 attack.

“There were widespread human rights abuses. Girls were denied an education, women could not work. Being gay was punishable by death. All imposed without democracy.

“Since then, a fragile democracy emerged.

“It was by no means perfect, but no international terrorist attacks have been mounted from Afghanistan in that period; women have gained liberty and won office; schools and clinics have been built. And Afghans have allowed themselves to dream of a better future.

“Those achievements were born of sacrifice. Sacrifice by the Afghan people who fought bravely alongside their NATO allies. And British sacrifice.

“Over 150,000 UK personnel have served in Afghanistan including Members across this House.”

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement during the emergency debate, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

I know many members of the Armed Forces Community in Portsmouth and further afield will be deeply distressed by the reports of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

“The sacrifices of British personnel, alongside the Afghan people and NATO allies, allowed for something that for many Afghans was not previously possible – to dream of a better future.

“Today the Prime Minister had the opportunity to reassure UK personnel who served in Afghanistan and worked to secure that future that their work will not be undone – but his statement offered little.

“The government’s failure is a dereliction of duty to the Afghan people, the 150,000 British personnel who served and the 457 who did not return home.

“What is happening in Afghanistan will have a profound impact on the mental health of many veterans, which we have known for some time is already in desperate need of addressing.

“This must be a wake-up call by Government to better understand, and better invest, in mental health support for our armed forces personnel and veterans.

“Keir Starmer was right today to say that mental health services for veterans must improve. The Prime Minister had little to say on the matter.

“I will be doing all I can to demand answers on what the government will be doing to address what I fear is an impending spike in mental health cases within the Armed Forces Community.

“I encourage any member of the Armed Forces Community who has been struggling with their mental health in recent days to contact Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion or All Call Signs, who will be on hand to provide the support that’s needed.

”You are not alone.”

In recent days the city MP has heard from many constituents with regards to the risks faced by UK nationals in Afghanistan, the implications of recent events on human rights and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The MP has already spoken with a number of local groups and the city council with regards to resettling Afghan families in the city and continues to help support this.

On the recently announced new resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees, the Portsmouth MP added:

“The latest resettlement scheme proposal by Government does not meet the scale of the challenge or complexities being faced, with the separate scheme for Afghan interpreters already far behind schedule.

“Not only does this risk leaving people in Afghanistan in deadly danger, it will also undermine the leadership role Britain must play in persuading international partners to live up to their responsibilities.

“In recent days, many of my constituents have shared with me their concerns for those fleeing the country in fear of persecution – or even death – seeking sanctuary in the UK. I will continue to help on these matters with the urgency they deserve.

“Soldiers and diplomats must be given the resources that they need and clear routes to safety must be established and expedited, both for Afghan refugees and those who have worked with Britain.”

Commenting on the Government’s lack of a plan to address the unfolding crisis, Stephen Morgan MP also said:

“The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments. We must now ensure our city and our country plays its part in providing a safe haven for families in need of safety. We all have a role to play and must be held to account – including the government.

“The scale of the refugee crisis will require an international response. 18.4 million people in Afghanistan already require humanitarian assistance and there is a real risk that this humanitarian disaster will get worse, particularly for women and girls.

“That response starts by the UK urgently ramping up humanitarian and development support for those who need it most and working with trusted partners who are already embedded in the country to deliver that vital support, so it reaches Afghans in need.

“With Portsmouth a proud city of sanctuary I know our communities will want to go above and beyond to help those needing support at this desperate time.”