Speaking for Ourselves

The Afghan refugee situation has exposed what’s wrong with the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill

The Afghan refugee situation has exposed what’s wrong with the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill

Salman Mirza, MV’s Birmingham Network Worker

 Migrant Voice - The Afghan refugee situation has exposed what’s wrong with the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill


Escaping for your life is never going to be a neat, orderly affair, where you can carry all your evidence with you or travel via conventional routes. This has been starkly illustrated by events in Afghanistan over the last month. Even UK passport holders are stuck in Afghanistan.

Yet, the Nationality and Borders Bill would make journeying to the UK without permission a criminal offence.

Compared to the 2.2 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan alone, the UK government has said it will only accept 20,000 Afghan refugees – around 5000 a year, following the Taliban taking of power in Afghanistan. Even these small numbers are not being met via ‘formal routes’ as thousands have been left stranded in Afghanistan with evacuation efforts not able to bring them to safety.

Outside of my work for Migrant Voice I provide immigration advice at Brushstrokes Community Project Sandwell and I am contacted daily by many Afghans asking for my help.

In advice work my first port of call is checking the Home Office’s country guidance, which gives crucial information for decision makers and legal representatives as to the position on granting people asylum.

But in this instance, there has been little or no guidance from the Home Office. The only country policy information to be found on Afghanistan is on healthcare and from December 2020.

Our members, people I represent and others in the Afghan diaspora have been frantic in trying to get family out, to no avail. They contact me for advice, help and information, which frustratingly I can’t give because there is no information and guidance or actual pathways.

“I phoned the resettlement scheme number today to give some details of family living in Afghanistan, turns out they’re not taking any details. Not sure what to do now.”

“Could you please send my MP an email to ask him about update of my family details that I sent to his secretary who said MP will talk to home office and foreign office.”

“I am messaging you about my aunties who are teachers.”

“My relative, he can't contact anyone in this situation because he deactivated all his social media accounts. Nowadays Taliban uses social media to track the former police and Army personnel down. Is there anyways we can help from here [in the UK]?”

Since the British Embassy in Kabul has closed and evacuations have ended, many Afghans have been left stranded: crossing the border and making their own way has now become the only option.

In fact, the Defence Minister has encouraged people to leave Afghanistan in whichever way they can, which contradicts the new proposed Borders Bill, which would criminalise those following this advice.

Downing Street have confirmed it is going to set up ways to evacuate people from third countries. Yet, there is no concrete guidance on government websites to help Afghans take such routes. We need to provide this information and a real process now. 

The situation starkly illustrates that people desperate to flee need to take whatever route necessary to reach safety; we must recognise this and provide protection to all regardless of how they journey.

For Afghan asylum seekers who were already in the UK before the recent events, their future is still uncertain as their cases are on hold with no decisions being made. This cannot be right; they should be given refugee status immediately.

The government is out of sync with public opinion, as people from all walks of life have been demanding the government do more.

We must stop the attempts of the Borders Bill to criminalise asylum. No matter how an asylum seeker lands in the UK they should be treated with dignity and compassion.

Image caption: Yasamin Saidi, 23, a student at Manchester University, who came to the UK as a child from Afghanistan.

Image credit: Courtesy of Salman Mirza.

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Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: [email protected]

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Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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