Thanks for the welcome

[Recent picture of Ms Hobhouse in a Commons debate] – Photo credit: Jess Taylor (Parliamentary photographer)

A big ‘thank you’ from Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse to the people of this city for welcoming Afghan refugees with ‘open arms.’

It came during a Westminster Hall debate on the government’s current Afghanistan resettlement scheme. Ms Hobhouse went on to criticise the Government’s response in dealing with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the inadequacies of the current resettlement scheme.

Mrs Hobhouse spoke to how she had recently taken an Afghan refugee into her office. Her staff member ‘fled Afghanistan in harrowing circumstances’ in 2021 and Wera Hobhouse MP praised the staff member for being a ‘wonderful asset’ to her team. The Bath MP expressed her disappointment that even in this case, despite the staff member having worked for the British Council, the Parliamentary authorities were unhelpful in supporting the completion of their full employment access.

The MP pointed out that her Bath constituency has ‘welcomed refugees with open arms’. She raised specifically how the University of Bath has provided sanctuary scholarships to Afghan students. The University has generously provided financial assistance to Afghan scholars and students who wish to further their academic and professional development in the UK. She also expressed her gratitude to Bath Welcomes Refugees, Julian House, and local constituents in Bath for their efforts in supporting Afghan refugees.

The debate centred around the Government’s current Afghanistan resettlement scheme. Over the course of her speech, Mrs Hobhouse raised concerns about the lack of support the Government is providing to Afghanistan refugees. She highlighted how when leaving Afghanistan, the Government promised to do everything it could to support those who helped the UK’s mission. That included setting up bespoke Afghan resettlement schemes focusing on the most vulnerable, in particular women and children and Afghans who had put their lives at risk for our country. 

Despite this pledge, not a single person has been accepted and evacuated from Afghanistan under Pathway 3. Although Pathway 3 makes provision for particularly vulnerable minority groups, those groups were excluded from the 1,500 places offered in 2022, and there has been no clarification on when places will be offered to them. Women and girls in Afghanistan were meant to be a priority, yet they have been left without a specific route to apply to the scheme. In July last year, Foreign Office officials admitted that many of those who helped our country would not have the opportunity to resettle in the UK.

Bath’s MP also spoke of the Government’s misplaced priorities. Currently, there are only 30 staff  working on the Afghan resettlement scheme in the Foreign Office. In sharp contrast, the Government recently brought in 400 new processing staff for the scheme to target Albanians, and £140 million to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, commented:

“It is unforgivable that the Government is not offering the support and help that many in Afghanistan need. Many are highly qualified professionals who simply wish to come here, find a job and make a positive contribution.

“For more than 17 months, British Council contractors have feared for their lives in Afghanistan, or Iran or Pakistan where they have fled to, waiting for their eligibility offers to relocate to the UK. The Government must restore the international development budget to provide much-needed help to Afghan people.

“The UK now has a duty to help those left behind, especially those who have risked their lives to help the UK. Washing our hands of what is happening now would be the most cynical abdication of our country’s duty.”