Imagine fleeing a blood- soaked, misogynistic, racist dictatorship, being promised a new life in a safe country — and then having those who promised it lock you up, deny you basic rights and refuse to tell you what happens next. That is what is happening to the Afghan refugees “welcomed” by the UK.
The name of the government’s resettlement programme, “Operation Warm Welcome”, is a sick joke.The Guardian reports that conditions for the refugees are so bad that many have started saying they want to go back. 7,000 Afghan refugees are stuck in hotels, with Home Office officials saying they may be there until the new year. Reports say many are being treated like prisoners, with strict restrictions on their right to go out even after exaggerated quarantine restrictions expired. Some are not even allowed to open windows. So much for Boris Johnson’s rhetoric about helping Afghans “rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education and integrate into their local communities”.
The government also seems to be determined not to tell refugees what is happening, further damaging people’s already battered mental health.They also appear reluctant to provide healthcare. Health human rights charity Medact called the situation “medically dangerous”.
Danny Thorpe, council leader in Greenwich (South East London), where 700 refugees arrived in August, summed up the government’s indifference as “one of the most shocking failures of government that I have ever encountered”.
“There was a huge mismatch between the rhetoric of senior government politicians and their actions to support those people.”
When Greenwich council told the government they were about to run out of baby milk, they were were told some would be delivered “in a few days”.
Shocking as this is, it makes sense from a government that is so determined to persecute refugees more widely. As Refugee Action put it: “What of the vast majority of Afghans who will not be lucky enough to be resettled? How will we treat the 20,001st Afghan refugee? Any Afghan who arrives in the UK today to claim asylum will be faced with a system riddled with injustice that all too often fails those it is meant to protect...”
“Worse still, this Government is seeking to double down on this injustice with their anti-refugee Bill…”
Pushing for a real welcome for Afghan refugees must be part of a fight to block the Nationality and Borders Bill and reverse decades of anti-refugee and anti-migrant laws.