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Letter: We Have a Duty to Welcome Afghan Refugees, As We Did Those from Uganda

Published on: 26 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 26 Aug, 2021

From: Peta Malthouse

In response to: We Cannot Be Responsible for the Whole World, Charity Starts at Home

I have read the somewhat intemperate words of Mr Paton with disbelief. What our ancestors of any political persuasion did is only relevant when looking at present-day problems.

In the past, we have intervened many times. The Anglo-Afghan Wars mounted to three conflicts (1839–42; 1878–80; 1919) in which Great Britain, from its base in India, sought to extend its control over neighbouring Afghanistan. They failed on each occasion.

America and Russia sought to extend their own influence and each funded militants within Afghanistan to do so. When they withdrew the Taliban took over.

The last intervention in 2001 followed 9/11 in which over 3,000 lives were lost 67 were British and we agreed to invade Afghanistan in order to flush out the Taliban who were giving shelter not only to Al Qaida but other militant groups who had already mounted terrorist attacks on the West. We were “dragged into it” because of our NATO pact commitments.

The success of the mission in counteracting terrorism is obvious. The allies then stayed to “rebuild the nation”, having caused so much destruction.

Withdrawing in the way we have also highlights the benefits that were obtained for the Afghan people. In withdrawing now I accept, as others probably do, that without the US Air Force cover and support we could not continue. The remaining issue then becomes how you withdraw from a country when you have created a situation where a multitude of people supporting your administration is seen to have been working traitorously against the incoming administration.

The answer is you must morally care for those you gave you support and this govt has had, since former President Trump signed his agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, to make the plans to do so.

Trump’s agreement was just between him and the Taliban. It did not include the Afghan government or his NATO allies… but was a fait accompli.

How our politicians deal with the situation is a measure of competence and fitness to govern. Are there any cabinet members who may be fit to do so? I doubt it. None of them has the experience and focus of Theresa May or Rory Stewart, who Boris dumped when he withdrew the whip from him and scores of good politicians, including our own Anne Milton.

I am afraid that Mr Paton’s attempt to widen the argument and try to place some sort of blame on the Labour Party, who have not been in power for the last 11 years, is a very poor show indeed.

When the UK last had to step up to the mark and accept a large influx of asylum seekers, from one place, it was the Ugandan Asians. I was working in Guildford Borough’s Housing department then. We took about 12 families if I recall and all were housed in homes that were not “council houses”, in fairness to those on our huge waiting list.

27,000 of them were housed throughout the UK by the Uganda Resettlement Board. Other families were resettled before Idi Amin just chucked them out. The communities welcomed them and supported them the best they could.

It is sad that Home Secretary Priti Patel seeks to limit the numbers from Afghanistan already, before we even know the need, to 10,000 because, I believe she says, we can’t afford any more. It is a good thing for her family that no arbitrary limit was placed on that humanitarian disaster that affected them.

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