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Richmond Park News: 20 August 2021

This week Parliament was recalled to discuss the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. As many of you will doubtless have seen, the contributions made by MPs from all parties were enlightening and often distressing, laying bare the devastating reality of the government’s actions and highlighting the moral and diplomatic responsibility we have to Afghan nationals who have bravely supported our armed forces for 20 years.


As the crisis continues to unfold, millions of innocent people across Afghanistan are fearing for their lives. Women and girls are terrified that their liberties and rights are about to be permanently extinguished. This rapid collapse was not inevitable. It is the direct result of the decisions taken by President Biden, the UK Government and other coalition forces.


The Liberal Democrats are calling for an immediate commitment to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees as a bare minimum. The priority should be to bring those most at risk to safety through an emergency Women and Girls Resettlement Scheme. The Government’s resettlement scheme, with its vague promise of ‘long-term’, kicks this into the grass when Afghans need help now, today.


Various reports in the media this week have further highlighted the unforgivable level of ineptitude that appears to be running through the government at this moment in time. Our position is clear: Dominic Raab must go. At a time of international crisis, it is imperative that our Foreign Secretary acts with the urgency called for by the situation. That he could not bring himself to leave his holiday beach and pick up the phone to the speak to his Afghan counterpart about evacuating translators is shameful. Further reports today appear to confirm that not even his junior ministers made the call on his behalf. His wilful complacency has potentially put the lives of brave interpreters, who supported our troops, at risk. If he fails to leave of his own accord, the Prime Minister must demonstrate leadership and sack him.


I was personally grateful for the opportunity to co-sign a number of letters this week in relation to the crisis. The first was a letter from female MPs to former Afghan MP, Elay Ershad, expressing support and solidarity with her and women MPs in Afghanistan. Elay inspired us when she joined us in the House of Commons in 2018 and spoke of her hopes of freedom and security for the people she represented. To read the letter, click here.


The second letter was sent to the Home Secretary calling on her department to bolster the support it can provide to Afghans in need. Our calls included, but were not limited to, introducing a simplified process to grant immediate protection to Afghans presently awaiting a decision on their asylum application and immediately publishing now guidance reflecting the danger faced by numerous social groups, including women and girls, LGBTIQ+ people and human rights defenders. To read the letter in full, click here.


A number of constituents have emailed me looking for guidance on what they can do to help their Afghan relatives relocate to the UK. At the moment, anyone who qualifies for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) programme is being prioritised. More information on the scheme can be found here, while the application form can be accessed here.


In the event your relative does not qualify for the programme, or if you are unsure, please send through the following information and I will see if there is anything I can do to help:

Constituent details:

Full name:

Address:

Contact details:

Relative/s in Afghanistan details:

Full name:

Date of Birth:

Nationality:

Relationship to constituent:

Home Office reference number:

Passport / travel document number:

Have they already obtained a visa:

Do they have a visa application pending (if so, please provide the reference):

Individual(s)’ contact details:

Location:

Any supporting documents


I was also grateful to see that the Aligator's Mouth, an independent bookstore in Richmond, will be donating all of its profits from tomorrow to Choose Love, a charity which provides aid and vital services to women and children who are fleeing the country. The pledge will apply to books bought in-store and through their website (but not through Bookshop UK), so please do consider purchasing a book from them.


COVID-19


The Secretary of State for Health has now instructed the NHS to offer all young people aged 16 to 17 in England a first dose of a vaccine by Monday 23 August to give them protection before returning to school. The drive to offer a first jab by this date will allow the two weeks necessary to build maximum immunity. NHS England has launched a new online walk-in site finder to help 16 and 17-year-olds find the nearest available centre.


Adults and children will now be free to return to work, attend school, and meet friends and family as the protection from vaccines replaces the need for contact isolation from Monday 16 August. However, I would still urge you all to exercise caution. We still have some way to go before full vaccination is achieved, and with schools shortly reopening, we must do all we can do avoid another peak in cases in the autumn.


HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE


This week, LBHF announced that it has approved a £6 million funding package for the stabilisation works for Hammersmith Bridge. For those of you unaware of the particulars, stabilisation refers to the