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Time for Scotland to show its ready to provide sanctuary to thousands of Afghan refugees

September 2, 2021 1:00 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Speaking ahead of a Scottish Government debate on supporting the people of Afghanistan on Thursday 2nd September, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has called on Scottish ministers to set out concrete commitments to help refugees from Afghanistan as part of the cross-party effort to persuade the UK Government to lift its "woeful" ambitions.

Mr Cole-Hamilton is asking for local authorities to be given additional funding to enable them to provide homes and support, but said the case for providing sanctuary to thousands more can be strengthened by the Scottish Government fully detailing Scotland's capacity to help.

The Liberal Democrats have previously slammed the UK Government's commitment to resettle just 5,000 Afghan refugees across the UK over the next year, saying it "falls woefully short" of what is needed in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

"The Scottish Government's rhetoric is admirable but what is missing is the concrete commitments in terms of numbers and funding to enable local authorities to house and support these people.

"If ministers produce and share guarantees of Scotland's readiness then it would help enable Scotland to provide sanctuary to thousands more. Ministers should show that our services are ready to assist in terms of providing physical and mental healthcare, housing, guardians, translators, education and more.

"Scotland can provide new hope for all those forced from their homes by the Taliban regime. I would gladly work with the Scottish Government to make that a reality."

Human Rights spokesperson Aisha Mir added:

"Hundreds of thousands of people have fled for their lives and countless more are still trapped in Afghanistan.

"A humanitarian crisis is unfolding before our eyes, and Priti Patel's promise to resettle just 5,000 refugees over the next 12 months falls woefully short of meeting that challenge. I know the UK can do far better than that. I hope that Scottish Government ministers will be pressing their UK counterparts to go further and back that up with the full evidence that Scotland is ready and willing to provide sanctuary to those fleeing terror and oppression."

The Scottish Liberal Democrats will submit the following amendment for the debate on Thursday afternoon:

Insert at end: "Notes reports that 3.5 million people have fled their homes within Afghanistan's borders and that 2.2 million Afghan refugees are already in neighbouring countries; urges the UK Government to urgently expand its plans for the resettlement of 20,000 Afghan refugees, with a new plan to provide immediate sanctuary to people fleeing persecution, oppression and terror instead of spreading assistance over five years; believes the resettlement of 20,000 people should be the starting point instead of the final target, and urges the Scottish Government, in light of the immediate human need, to proactively share evidence of the number that it can resettle and provide effective support and services to, including capacity to provide physical and mental healthcare, housing, guardians, translators and education, providing guarantees that the Scottish Government and public authorities across Scotland are ready to assist in order to help persuade the UK Government to lift the overall cap and enable Scotland to provide sanctuary to thousands."