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Leeds West MP issues statement on Afghanistan – as ‘big-hearted Leeds’ prepares to welcome refugees

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has called on the Government not to betray the people of Afghanistan – and has urged people in Leeds West with family members to contact her office for support.

Her comments come amid the Taliban’s takeover of the country, which followed the withdrawal of NATO troops in the area.

In a statement posted on social media, Ms Reeves said:

“Thank you to all those who have contacted me and my office about the desperate situation in Afghanistan. As Keir Starmer said in the House of Commons today, the government must not betray the Afghan people, those British nationals still in Kabul, and all who fought to rid Afghanistan of terror. 

“The UK must safely evacuate our diplomatic staff and the government must establish a resettlement programme that meets the scale of the refugee crisis. 

“Those in Afghanistan who courageously speak out for women and girls deserve our full support given the incredible fears and threats they face from the Taliban.  

“Here at home, we must improve mental health services for our veterans and support for all those who served in Afghanistan and their families, especially at this difficult time. Your contribution and sacrifice made a difference and you deserve so much better. 

“There must be every effort made internationally and here in the UK to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis and stop it from spiraling further out of control. 

“If you are a constituent of Leeds West with family members affected please contact my office at rachel.reeves.mp@parliament.uk or telephone 0113 2552311.”

‘Big-hearted city’ set to welcome Afghan refugees

Two of Leeds’s MPs have praised the city’s “big heart” and have assured parliament that the district stands ready to take Afghan refugees into temporary accommodation.

It follows an announcement from the Home Office that the UK was prepared to welcome 5,000 Afghan refugees during this year, and a total of 20,000 “in the long term”.

Harrowing pictures had emerged this week from Kabul Airport, showing Afghan civilians desperately trying to flee the country.

Speaking in Parliament today, Leeds Northwest MP Alex Sobel (Lab) said: “Our council in Leeds has already said it is standing ready to take people in temporary accommodation from Afghanistan, but we need safe routes across the land borders.

“There needs to be safe passages from those third countries to the UK.”

Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) added: “I agree completely and the people of Leeds, the city of Leeds, has always had a big heart, and we will play our part.”

Parliament had been recalled, despite the summer recess, to discuss the unfolding situation in Afghanistan.

Leeds City Council put out a statement earlier this week, stating: “We are already working alongside other councils across the region as part of the current Afghan relocation scheme, coordinated by Migration Yorkshire, and will consider any further proposals put forward by the government in due course.”

Speaking today, Mr Benn said: “There is some immediate priorities to address. The first is to get people out – British citizens, and all of those who worked with us and supported us over 20 years to whom we owe a debt.

“We have an obligation to them, and we have to help them resettle because they are in fear of their lives.”

A statement released by the Home Office this week read claimed a new “bespoke” resettlement scheme had been created for Afghan refugees, and would see the UK commit to sheltering 20,000 over the long term, while warning there were “significant obstacles”.

No further statement was made in response to this by Leeds City Council.

Mr Benn said: “It’s not the promise, it’s the number who are able to make it to this country. We have a long and proud tradition of offering fear to those in crisis.

“In the longer term, we need to reflect on how this happened and what lessons we can learn, but that is for tomorrow. Today’s task is to help those who are living in fear because of the return of the Taliban.

“We all remember what they did the last time they were in control of Afghanistan.”

Update: This article was corrected 19/8/21 to clarify that the Government has agreed to take 5,000 Afghan refugees this year, not 10,000 as originally reported.


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