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Richmond Park News: 27 August 2021

The still-growing tragedy in Afghanistan has continued to dominate my thoughts and work this week. I have been contacted by dozens of Richmond Park constituents with relatives in Afghanistan and have offered all the help I can to their family members. Many of them have UK immigration rights but have been unable to get transport out of the country. Their stories are heartbreaking, and I want to assure my constituents that I am doing all I can for them.


I am hoping to get more information about the Government's resettlement scheme soon, and I join my Liberal Democrat colleagues in demanding that the Government tell us how many people who are eligible to settle in the UK have been left behind in Afghanistan, and what they are going to do to get them to safety. We must never forsake our moral duty to those who are now in danger because they worked for British military, diplomatic or aid organisations.


I want to pay tribute to the Ministry of Defence staff and service personnel on the ground in Afghanistan who have run the evacuation -- risking their own lives to try to get as many people out as possible before the August 31 deadline. Their efforts have been heroic and they deserve all of our thanks. They have saved thousands of lives this week and I am deeply grateful for their service.


I call on the Home Secretary to explain the Government's plans to assist the hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who will be fleeing repressive Taliban rule over the next weeks and months. The British Government must work with international partners to establish safe corridors, so those who wish to leave can do so safely by land. We cannot abandon Afghan refugees, many of them women and children, to the Taliban and ISIS.


If you would like to help those fleeing Afghanistan, I would suggest that at this time monetary donations will be the most helpful. Aid organisations have not had time to set up channels for other types of donations yet, though clothes and other goods are being supplied to people arriving. Some organisations asking for assistance include Refugee Council UK, the Red Cross, and the International Rescue Commitee.


On the local level, the Feltham-based Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) provides support, skills and knowledge to help new arrivals integrate and prosper in the UK. Constituents from Afghanistan might like to contact them for support and information, and others might want to donate to support their work. You can see their website here.


If you would like to write to me for personal assistance, please send the following details:


Your details: name, address, email address, phone number


Relative/s in Afghanistan's details: Full name, date of birth, nationality, relationship to constituent, Home Office reference number, passport/travel document number, visa/ARAP status and any reference numbers, current location, any supporting documents


If you would like to write to me about Government policy on Afghanistan, please check whether your questions have been answered in this open letter to my constituents. If your policy concern is covered there, I would like to kindly ask you not to write to me at this time, while I focus on assisting those in need.


Please feel free to share this newsletter or the open letter with other constituents.



GEOFFREY PIDGEON


It is with great sadness that I report that Richmond Park has lost one of its most notable residents. On Thursday 12 August, Geoffrey Pidgeon, one of the last surviving team-members of the World War Two code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, passed away.

Geoffrey was just 17 years old when he joined the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), the forerunner to MI6, at Bletchley Park. He was part of the team that shared information intercepted from the enemy with Allied field commanders.


One of the youngest people involved at Bletchley Park, Geoffrey will be among the very last of this generation who did so much to save so many lives. In recognition of his work, he was awarded the Legion d' Honneur by the French Ambassador and our Minister of Defence in October 2019.


In his final years, Geoffrey wrote 'The Secret Wireless War', a book about the activities the SIS, and he was researching his latest newsletter on the subject just before he died, aged 95. I had the pleasure of taking tea with him before the pandemic and found him as warm, erudite and energetic as ever. Geoffrey is survived by his three sons.



SWIMMING SAFETY


I would like to convey to constituents the danger of jumping into the Thames from Teddington Lock. Increasing numbers of teenagers have been doing this and I ask parents to please talk to their children about it. The currents in this stretch of river are fast and unpredictable, and the water is not clear enough to see what may be waiting for them below the surface. The lock and weir create special riptide hazards, as do boats, whose captains may not see a single swimmer in time. With warmer, sunnier weather to come this weekend, please help keep young people safe by spreading the word.



HARLEQUINS VACCINATION CENTRE CLOSING

Since the Twickenham Stoop (Harlequins) Stadium vaccination site opened in February, the NHS has delivered over 75,000 Covid-19 vaccinations there. However, with Covid-19 restrictions being eased, Harlequins needs to reopen the stadium to fans for the new rugby season. Accordingly, the vaccination centre will close after Sunday. On behalf of the thousands of my constituents who were vaccinated there, I would like to thank the Harle