Over recent weeks and months we have all been moved and horrified by events unfolding in Afghanistan. We have since started to receive lots of calls and messages from concerned people wanting to know how best to respond to the crisis and how to support Afghans arriving here in Greater Manchester.
At the moment, there is still uncertainty around the UK response. In December the UK Government announced a new Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) for Locally Employed Staff in Afghanistan who had worked in key roles (e.g. as interpreters or advisors) alongside the British Military and other government agencies. We understand that current arrivals from Afghanistan are likely to be part of this scheme.
In mid August the UK Government announced a new bespoke resettlement route for 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next 5 years. This scheme looks to be similar to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons resettlement scheme, which ran from September 2015- February 2021. New arrivals who come to the UK via this route will not have to go through the usual asylum process on arrival, but will be immediately granted leave to remain and will have access to work, benefits, education, healthcare and mainstream benefits and support. It is likely that initial accommodation will be provided in temporary hotels. Please note that we have been advised not to publicise the location of any of these hotels due to concerns over the safety of those arriving from Afghanistan.
The ever brilliant Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) has put together this resource, detailing the latest UKVI policies on Afghanistan and advice on the options available to people.
We know that local authorities across Greater Manchester have said that they are willing to take refugees from Afghanistan under the new resettlement scheme and it is likely that each area will have its own response, processes and needs in terms of donations and support.
This new resettlement scheme is a start, but we believe it is not enough. It is not enough for the people of Afghanistan and it is not enough for people from other nations who have fled persecution, violence, war and torture.
What is Boaz doing and what can our friends and supporters do?
At Boaz, our mission is to end destitution among people seeking sanctuary and we seek to do this primarily by providing accommodation and support for people who become homeless through the asylum process. Therefore, at this time, we are not directly involved in the initial resettlement work with new arrivals from Afghanistan.
However, we are speaking out and calling on our government to do more in response to the situation in Afghanistan, but also to do more to support people seeking sanctuary from other countries. You can read about what we, along with over 100 other organisations, are asking the Government to do in relation to the Afghan situation here.
More widely though, the Government's New Plan for Immigration criminalises people from Afghanistan and other countries who are not able to access resettlement schemes and instead flee their homeland and arrive here by other means. We have written here about our wider concerns about the New Plan for Immigration and here about what an alternative plan might look like.
We are calling on friends and supporters to write to their MPs about the situation in Afghanistan, as well as the Nationality and Borders Bill, asking that they challenge the Bill as it progresses through Parliament in the months ahead. You can use this template letter to help you. It can feel so overwhelming at times like this, but please know that your voice counts and a letter expressing your concerns can make a real difference.
We can pray
As a faith-based organisation, prayer is important to us.
- Pray for the nation of Afghanistan: for peace and restoration, for national and international leaders who have power, influence and authority;
- Pray for the people of Afghanistan, for those who want to see change, for those who are fighting by choice or by force, for women and children, for those who have fled the country and are living in camps in surrounding nations, for those who are already making treacherous journeys because they feel they have no choice, for those who will be part of resettlement schemes, for those who will be left behind;
- Pray for Afghan refugees already here in the UK, including some of our Boaz clients, interpreters and friends, for their families and loved ones who are still in Afghanistan, for those here in the UK who have had their asylum claims refused, and for those are even now being held in detention centres.
We can learn
We can listen to Afghan voices and follow Afghan organisations, as well as learning from organisations and news outlets. We recommend Gulwali Passarlay who wrote the brilliant book The Lightless Sky about his own journey from Afghanistan to safety as a teenager, documenting how he navigated the UK asylum system. The Guardian recently featured a brilliant and powerful long read from Zarlasht Halaimzai who fled Afghanistan as a child along with her family and sought refuge in the UK. One of our local newspapers recently interviewed Quazi Marzia Babarkarkhail who was an activist and judge in Afghanistan, and fled to the UK in 2008 after the Taliban made her life impossible.
We can give
If you have been moved to give to support work with new arrivals from Afghanistan we recommend that you do some research and find organisations who are best placed to provide the necessary support to people fleeing the horrific situation in Afghanistan at this time.
We've been really moved by people's generosity in wanting to donate items for Afghans arriving in the UK. Before donating clothes and other items we would urge you to first find out what the local needs are by asking organisations who are directly involved in the work in your community, rather than turning up with donations that may not be needed or useful. This blog explains what you need to consider before donating items.
Of course, if after reading this update you would like to make a donation to Boaz for our ongoing work with people seeking sanctuary here in Greater Manchester, we would be incredibly grateful and you can do that by visiting our donation page, here.
We will do our best to provide updates when we have them in terms of the local response and how you can get involved in supporting people seeking sanctuary from Afghanistan, as well as from the many other countries experiencing turmoil at this time.