Don’t criminalise refugees – our joint letter to the Home Secretary on the Afghanistan crisis

Anti*Capitalist Resistance are a signatory of this open letter through our affiliation with AEIP.

Joint letter to the Home Secretary

Dear Home Secretary,

We write to you as organisations defending the human rights of migrants and refugees, to urge you to act immediately to offer a generous and compassionate response to the crisis in Afghanistan, reflective of our country’s values and our capabilities.

The fall of Afghanistan to Taliban forces places the rights and lives of millions of people at risk. Reports confirm that widespread killings have already begun, with women and girls, ethnic minorities, LGBTIQ+ people, journalists and anyone seen as supporting an international organisation or the Afghan Government, throughout the country including Kabul, in immediate danger. This raises an enormous and urgent challenge to the Government’s current approach to refugee protection. History will judge how we respond.

There is now a critical need to swiftly establish sustainable protection solutions for Afghans already living in the UK, their families and loved ones, and for those who will inevitably flee and seek to reach our protection over the coming weeks and months.

To achieve this, the Government must urgently take the following steps:

  1. Immediately publish new policy guidance that reflects the clear need for international protection for all those at risk.
  2. Introduce a simplified process to grant immediate protection to any person from Afghanistan with an outstanding protection claim, and to facilitate expedited decisions on fresh or new claims going forwards.
  3. No Afghan should be evicted from asylum accommodation.
  4. Address limitations on access to family reunification for people from Afghanistan. Applications must be expedited, and criteria widened to include, for example, parents and siblings of applicants. Normal procedures requiring applications to take place through embassies must similarly be suspended.
  5. No Afghan nationals should be in immigration detention and all those currently in detention should be released, given the impossibility of safely effectuating removals.
  6. No Afghan national should be subjected to inadmissibility procedures and face removal to any third country.
  7. Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation schemes must protect people working in all at-risk professions.

A wide-scale international resettlement effort is desperately needed to evacuate people from the country and the surrounding region. However, the horrifying scenes of a deadly scramble for safety at Kabul airport this week demonstrate why a resettlement-only approach to refugee protection, as proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill currently before Parliament, cannot work.

It is not feasible for refugees to wait for undefined periods of time in unsafe situations in the hope of resettlement in the context of what we have seen. Regulated travel is not a viable option. Many people need to flee urgently and by any means necessary, including by making irregular journeys. These must not be penalised.

We urge the Government more strongly than ever, therefore, to abandon its inadmissibility rules and its decision to delegitimise and criminalise refugee journeys that are not undertaken through regulated resettlement routes. Refugees reaching our shores must have their claims assessed based solely on need and never on their method of flight. It is not too late to reverse these dangerous policies and to move to provide a world-leading, compassionate response to this crisis.

We look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Yours Sincerely,

Satbir Singh, Chief Executive, The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Dr Mohammad Hotak, Chair, Afghan Council of Great Britain
Mariam Baraky, Advocacy Service Manager, Paiwand
Duncan McAuley, Chief Executive, Action Foundation
Maya Esslemont, Director, After Exploitation
Amnesty NE Welcomes
Dave Stamp, Senior Caseworker, ASIRT
Graham Millar, Executive Director, ASSIST Sheffield
Ali McGinley, Director, Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees
Andrea Vukovic, Director, Asylum Matters
Kat Lorenz, Director, Asylum Support Appeals Project
Almas Farzi, Services Director, Asylum Welcome
Ewan Roberts, Centre Manager, AsylumLink Merseyside
Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile
Rebecca Baron, Head of Activism Europe, Ben and Jerry’s
Annie Viswanathan, Director, BID
Beth Wilson, Director, Bristol Refugee Rights
Caroline Gregory, Volunteer, Calais Action
Loraine Masiya Mponela, Chair, CARAG
Clare Moseley, Founder, Care4Calais
Jamie Fookes, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Children and Families Across Borders
Tess Berry-Hart, Director, Citizens of the World Choir CIC
Siân Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary UK
Eleanor Brown, Managing Director, Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Jackie Capitani, Core Services Manager, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre
James Wilson, Acting Director, Detention Action
Ellen Waters, Director of Development, Doctors of the World UK
Dale Kitching, UK Focal Point, Europe Must Act
Steve Crawshaw, Policy and Advocacy Director, Freedom from Torture
Dorothy Guerrero, Head of Policy, Global Justice Now
Gisela Renolds, Executive Director, Global Link
Traci Kirkland, Head of Charity, Govan Community Project
Daf Viney, Director of Services, Hackney Migrant Centre
Kerry Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Helen Bamber Foundation Group
Tahmid Chowdhury, Joint CEO, Here for Good
Nick Lowles, CEO, HOPE Not Hate
Phil Davis, Director, Hope Projects
Roger van Schaick, Chair, Host Nottingham
Maddie Harris, Director, Humans for Rights Network
Nicole Francis, Chief Executive, ILPA
Liz Fekete, Director, Institute of Race Relations
Sarah Teather, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service
David Altschuler, Chairman, Joint Refugee Action Network
Avril Sharp, Policy Officer, Kalayaan
Dr Razia Shariff, CEO, Kent Refugee Action Network
Jon Beech, Director, Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network
Jean Gould, Co-Chair, Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Rosario Guimba-Stewart, CEO, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network
Luke Cooper, Coordinator, Another Europe Is Possible
Marina Bielenky, Mid Gloucestershire Amnesty
Maude Casey, Migrant English Project
Zrinka Bralo, CEO, Migrants Organise
Fizza Qureshi, CEO, Migrants’ Rights Network
Bridget Young, Director, NACCOM
Ben Hopkinson, Secretary and Trustee, Northumberland County of Sanctuary
Amos Schonfield, Director, Our Second Home
Magda Fabianczyk, Co-Founder, Polish Migrants Organise for Change
Sally Daghlian OBE, CEO, Praxis
Nick Harborne, CEO, Reading Refugees Support Group
Anna Jones, Co-Founder, RefuAid
Enver Solomon, CEO, Refugee Council
Catherine Gladwell, CEO, Refugee Education UK
Marta Welander, Executive Director, Refugee Rights Europe
Jennifer Longford, Chair, Refugee Support Devon
Zarlasht Halaimzai, CEO, Refugee Trauma Initiative
Ged Allen, Volunteer Director, Refugees & Mentors CIC
Lucy Nabijou, Coordinator, Refugees Welcome Haringey
Elli Free, Director, Room to Heal
Beth Gardiner-Smith, CEO, Safe Passage International
Indre Lechtimiakyte, Legal and Migrant Support Manager, Samphire
Richard Williams, Chair, Sanctuary on Sea
Christopher Desira, Director, Seraphus
Kate Smart, CEO, Settled
Patrick Marples, Chief Executive, South West London Law Centres
Stuart Crosthwaite, Secretary, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group
Emily Crowley, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees
Tim Hopkins, Director, The Equality Network
Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)
Susannah Baker, Trustee, The Pickwell Foundation
Nicolas Hatton, CEO, the3million
Jacob Berkson, Thousand 4 Thousand
Alexandra Simmons, Co-Founder, TimePeace
Nick Watts, Co-Founder, Together Migrant Children
Manny Hothi, Chief Executive, Trust for London
Nadine Daniel BEM, Campaigns and Strategy Lead, UK Welcomes Refugees
Claudia Holmes, Founder, UKCEN
Mel Steel, Director, Voices in Exile
Melissa Younger, Finance and Operations Manager, West End Refugee Service
Alphone Kabagabo, Director, Women for Refugee Women

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