Almost two years have passed since the fall of Kabul since the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan women’s pleas for help continue to echo.
Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, who helped rescue 103 women on the group’s ‘kill list’, has revealed how she still receives ‘tragic, terrible text messages’ from those trapped in the country.
The human rights lawyer launched an urgent appeal to provide support to judges, lawyers, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders and their families at risk in Afghanistan and in need of a safe haven abroad as the tragedy unfolded.
A total of 508 people escaped on three flights the Scottish-born Labour peer had arranged – but she said the Tories’ ‘dog whistle politics’ on immigration mean she can no longer bring people to safety in the UK.
Hitting out at the government, Baroness Kennedy said: ‘It was possible then, then of course it was not possible any more.
‘I have still got women sending me the most tragic, terrible text messages and phoning me at all hours, saying “please help me, I am hiding in my basement, I didn’t get on your planes in 2021 because my mother was dying, I couldn’t leave at the time, but now they are after me”.
‘But all I can say is “I’m sorry, they don’t provide visas to Britain from Afghanistan, you have to go to another country, Pakistan is the nearest, you have to get your kids across that border”.’
Condemning the shortage of legal routes for those fleeing persecution to come to the UK, she stressed that is why ‘quite a number’ of those who attempt to arrive on small boats across the Channel are originally from Afghanistan.
‘Sometimes they are Afghanis who have worked for us,’ Baroness Kennedy added.
‘Sometimes they are Afghanis of a particular minority called the Hazara, who get slaughtered as soon as the Taliban look at them.’
Rishi Sunak has made a commitment to ‘stop the boats’ as one of his key pledges to voters, with the government pursuing a crackdown on refugees entering the country illegally in the Illegal Migration Bill.
Baroness Kennedy claimed the legislation constitutes a ‘full frontal dismissal of the rule of law’.
She said: ‘I am a lawyer, and I believe in the rule of law. I think rather like Boris (Johnson) being dismissive or applying the rules to himself, I am afraid that has spilled into the behaviour of other ministers.
‘I am afraid that the Home Office in this is prepared to break international law on the refugee convention, the convention on the rights of the child, the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, because they are prepared to deport pregnant women.
‘One of the fundamentals in Scots law and English law is the right to due process, that before you lose any of your rights that you should have the opportunity of putting your case.
‘These people are not being allowed to put their own case as to why they might be entitled to asylum or refugee status here.’
She described the proposals as ‘pretty disgusting’, and added: ‘It is being done because this is a government running out of policy and running out of road.
‘You do have to have sensible policies around immigration and what we need in terms of immigration.’
As the Taliban overturned the government in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, Metro.co.uk reported on the cases of a female judge and an MP who were being hunted down by the fighters.
They were among the most vulnerable people in the country who had previously stood up to the group.
As the ‘death lists’ began to circulate, these women had the most to lose.
A Home Office spokesperson stressed that the UK has a ‘proud history of providing safe and legal routes for those who need it’.
‘Between 2015 and March 2023, we have offered a place to over half a million men, women and children seeking safety,’ they added.
‘Supporting the resettlement of eligible Afghans remains a top priority. We have so far welcomed over 9,113 arrivals under Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), and we continue to work with the UNHCR, likeminded partners and countries neighbouring Afghanistan to identify at-risk people for resettlement in the UK.
‘No one however should be risking their lives by crossing the Channel or taking dangerous and illegal routes to reach the UK.
‘People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach – that is the fastest route to safety.’
Source : MetroUK