The desperate crisis in Afghanistan has loomed large this week and I headed to Westminster for the Parliamentary recall for the urgent debate on the escalating situation. All week I’ve been in close contact with Ministers from all involved departments to keep abreast of the fast-moving picture and to feed in concerns of the many constituents who have been in touch. Amongst other matters a number have asked me to make representations regarding the animal charity Nowzad, which has West Country links and is based in Kabul and I received assurances yesterday that a special unit within the Foreign Office are engaging on this.
I want to give assurances that the safety of British Nationals, deployed military personnel, and Afghans who risked their lives working alongside the UK are the Government’s top priority. An additional 800 military personnel have been deployed to help provide coordination and force protection for the relocation of British nationals and to support the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP). Launched on 1 April 2021, it has already supported over 3,100 former Afghan staff and their families to start new lives in the UK, with more than 1,800 of them arriving over the last few weeks alone. Home Office staff are working around the clock in extremely difficult circumstances to ensure that we resettle more of those eligible more quickly and I welcome the Prime Minister’s detailed outline of what more will be done.
Crucially, the UK is using its Presidency of the G7 to reach out more broadly than ever before to difficult partners across the globe including countries neighbouring Afghanistan so that we can tackle this challenging situation together, with efforts being made to establish a contact group towards this endeavour.
Back in Taunton Deane, I look forward to visiting the Link Centre in Halcon to celebrate the recent award of £390,000 made to the Taunton East Development Trust by the National Community Lottery Fund which I was pleased to support. This game changing grant will help support and improve the lives of the whole Halcon community, making a genuine difference to peoples’ lives.