With the Taliban taking control over Afghanistan in a matter of days, many will now question what the future holds for Afghans and whether anything from the decades worth of humanitarian and development assistance will remain intact.
As heartbreaking and chaotic scenes of people attempting to flee Afghanistan continue to unfold, UK NGOs along with their partners remain in place and are now trying to secure the safety of their staff. They are doing so whilst continuing to offer support and humanitarian assistance to Afghan communities, many of whom were already struggling to access food, clean water and healthcare amid drought, conflict and the coronavirus pandemic.
How the British government can help
Responding to the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, Bond and British and Irish Agencies in Afghanistan Group (BAAG) have called on the UK government to use its diplomatic levers to enable humanitarian organisations and their partners to continue to deliver assistance to people safely, and support those wanting to leave Afghanistan.
Recommendations in the letter include:
- The UK should take immediate steps to increase UK humanitarian support to Afghanistan and Afghan civil society, reversing the recent UK aid cuts, and mobilising the funding necessary to meet our responsibilities towards the Afghan people
- The FCDO should take immediate steps to safeguard the international protection of the people of Afghanistan and increase the number of safe and legal routes to safety
- The UK, working with others, should act to protect the rights and lives of women and girls and minority groups, recognising their position as equal members of Afghan society as enshrined in the constitution.
- The UK should work with like-minded allies including the UN, to ensure that the protection of civilians remains the priority.
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Supporting those who want to leave
Those who fought hard for gains for women and girls are most at risk, as are those who have worked bravely to advocate on their behalf. Supporting a group of civil society organisations, Bond and many of our members have written to the Secretary of State to call on the British government to take immediate action to:
- Ensure safe and legal routes to those facing imminent danger and their dependents to reach safety. This includes:
- Provide visas for, and assist with, the escort and evacuation of Afghan women at risks
- Extend the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) to include Afghan individuals and their dependents who are at heightened risk of persecution due to their activism, work on human rights and women’s rights, and their contribution to the peace process. This would be in line with approaches taken by UK allies including Canada, the US, Ireland and Australia.
- Work closely with governments of neighbouring countries for the passage out of Afghanistan to be safe and timely.
- Prioritise the needs and rights of Afghan women and girls in any actions taken in response to the situation in Afghanistan, both nationally and internationally. This includes actively leveraging all multilateral avenues to safeguard Afghan women and girls and shaping any humanitarian response to ensure it is locally informed and gender and conflict sensitive, defending the role of women’s organisations and women humanitarian workers to deliver much needed services, including supporting safehouses and GBV services for women and their families who cannot flee.
- Cease forced removals and reconsider any refused asylum claims in light of the change of the political situation and expedite any existing family reunification applications.
What Bond are doing
In the coming days and weeks, Bond’s Humanitarian Working Group and BAAG will be meeting with FCDO officials to represent what we are hearing from organisations on the ground and Afghan communities. If you would like to be involved, please sign-up to the Humanitarian Working Group or get in touch with Rowan Popplewell, Bond’s Policy Manager for Civic Space: [email protected].