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Conservative anger grows over Priti Patel’s failure to begin resettling stranded Afghans | Refugees

Priti Patel faces growing criticism from Tory MPs for the Home Office’s failure to open a program for Afghans to resettle in Britain, three months after her announcement – as the crisis linked the death of 27 people in the English Channel intensifies.

Some Tory MPs have reportedly confronted the Home Secretary directly over the delay in launching the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Program (ACRS), which was announced with great fanfare in August when the Taliban took control of Kabul.

MEPs say the Interior Ministry’s failure to follow through on its pledge to act pushes refugees to take deadly risks and leaves vulnerable people in Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban. Several senior conservatives said Britain had a “moral obligation” to the Afghans who had worked with the West.

Several MPs criticized Interior Ministry officials for “dragging their feet” to open the program, over concerns about where the refugees should be treated and the resources needed to accommodate them once there. UK.

The Afghans are among those on the French coast who are trying to make the perilous crossing to the United Kingdom. Critics of Patel and the Home Office’s inaction say putting in place a legal route would have averted tragedies such as the one in which 27 people died last week trying to cross the Channel from France.

Caroline Nokes, the former Conservative Minister of Immigration, said: “This has to be operational. Afghans here whose families are still in Afghanistan were hopeful when the program was announced, but they are desperately concerned that time is running out to get their family members to safety.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said: “We are all in favor of stopping illegal immigration, but these other avenues are the key to getting things done properly. It needs to be open and resolved, especially because of Afghanistan and the obligations to the people there. This week illustrates that.

Former Immigration Minister Damian Green, the Member of Parliament for Ashford in Kent who heads the group of 100 Conservative MPs One Nation, is calling for a new approach from the government that is both “realistic and compassionate”. He suggests considering adapting a program used to allow Syrian refugees to legally come to Britain, implemented when David Cameron was Prime Minister. Green, written in the Observer, says the UK-France blame game over Channel deaths has been a “diplomatic disaster” and calls on Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron to work together.

Iain Duncan Smith: “It needs to be open and resolved, especially because of Afghanistan and the obligations to the people there. “ Photograph: British Parliament / Jessica Taylor / PA

“Now is not the time to show hurt self-esteem in either language. Reckless speech costs lives, ”Green writes.

An Opinium survey for the Observer notes that only 18% of voters think that Patel handled the Channel crisis well while 62% think that she handled it badly or very badly. Among Conservative voters, 39% think she handled the situation very well or fairly well while 45% say she answered very badly or somewhat badly.

The ministers said the Afghan resettlement program is complex and the interior ministry is working “at the pace” to open it as soon as possible.

However, there is also reportedly an ongoing Whitehall battle over where refugee processing and checks can take place. Treatment in Afghanistan was deemed too difficult. However, treatment outside the country would lead to complications if people were found ineligible for the program.

Rory Stewart, the former international development secretary, said the problems were surmountable, but the opportunity to help vulnerable people was fading.

“We have a narrow window to get people out,” he said. “At the moment, strangely enough, the Taliban are ready to allow people out. It will not be true forever. It is very likely that at some point they will start to take more drastic measures. We have a deep moral obligation. These people, who are deeply vulnerable, the UK government has said they will help. It’s just amazing they didn’t. This kind of program, in fact, is the kind of thing that is the right alternative to these dangerous and unforeseen routes. It moves people safely, but it is also the way to ensure that the most vulnerable are given priority.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign minister, said the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan was crumbling and few details were known about the British program, adding: “Even now the government cannot even tell us who really is. responsible for the program. In August, the prime minister said he would move heaven and earth to keep people safe. Since then, it seems he hasn’t lifted a finger to help. It forces desperate people into the hands of smugglers with no regard for human life, using increasingly dangerous routes to reach our shores. “

Rory Stewart talking to someone on the street
Rory Stewart: “At the moment, very strangely, the Taliban are ready to allow people out. It will not be true forever. Photograph: Tolga Akmen / AFP / Getty Images

The Law Society has warned that lawyers, prosecutors and judges who have acted against the Taliban are all targets while still in Afghanistan.

Marina Brilman, her international human rights adviser, said she feared Britain’s program might not even be up and running by the end of the year. “Most of the judges, prosecutors and lawyers who have helped consolidate the rule of law in Afghanistan are Afghan nationals,” she said. “They were never put on the UK government’s evacuation list. When the last British flight left Kabul airport, they found themselves stranded. Especially the women.

“They are sending us desperate pleas for help and passing handwritten death threats saying that they and their families will be killed. They are constantly moving from house, even province, to escape violence.

“Taliban house searches continue, as do extrajudicial killings and beatings in public. Of course, setting up this diet is a huge undertaking. But it shouldn’t even take three and a half months to open it up for nominations. This begs the question of how much of a priority this is for the UK government. “

A government spokesperson said: ‘We have undertaken the UK’s largest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping more than 15,000 people to seek safety from Afghanistan, which we continue to support. ACRS is one of the most generous programs in the history of our country and will give another 20,000 people at risk a new life in the UK. We continue to work at a steady pace to open up the program in a complex and changing environment, working government-wide and with partners such as UNHCR to design the program.