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Afghanistan: The crisis we are now seeing is the consequence of the decisions made by the US, Britain & NATO over the past 2 decades – Ian Byrne MP

“The war has worsened the effects of poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, & environmental degradation on Afghans’ health… That is the legacy of a disastrous foreign policy intervention made in 2001.”

Ian Byrne MP

Over 80 MPs who requested to speak in this week’s Afghanistan debate could not be called before it closed.

This was Ian Byrne MP’s planned contribution:

I would like to pay tribute to the servicemen and women from my Liverpool West Derby constituency who served in Afghanistan and have contacted me in recent days, concerned and angry about the current crisis and fearing that their service and sacrifice was in vain.

I would also like to acknowledge my constituents in Liverpool West Derby who care deeply about this situation and have been in touch with me about this debate today.

20 years ago the anti-war movement warned this House, and the Government, against supporting the US in a rush to war in Afghanistan. With specific warnings that a military occupation would not lead to long term stable governance.

The crisis we are now seeing is the consequence of the decisions made by the US, Britain and NATO over the past 2 decades.

I therefore urge this House, and the Ministers sat opposite, to listen to the calls of the anti-war movement today – to their calls for the UK to rule out any renewed military action beyond providing protection to those trying to leave the country. And to their calls for the Government to do everything it can to support and assist all those fleeing the Taliban, including creating safe routes for refugees to travel to the UK, and changing the restrictive Home Office refugee family reunion rules that are preventing those who are in danger in Afghanistan being reunited with their family members in the UK.

During the summer, up to 30,000 people have been fleeing Afghanistan every week and a refugee settlement programme cannot wait a day longer. I have been contacted by homeless organisations in Liverpool who have accommodation available and will go above and beyond.

I urge the Government to act with the same urgency and commit to a programme that – in the words of the Refugee Council – is “meaningful and on a large scale, and should not come instead of, or at the expense of, resettling refugees from other conflict areas across the world”. And the programme must include long term support.

I also want to mention some existing issues which must urgently be addressed. This Government is responsible for countless injustices through delays and rejections to asylum claims – including of people who have already fled Afghanistan – and this Government has engaged in a shameful practice of running deportation flights to the country. I ask Ministers to immediately halt any planned deportations and fast track those seeking refugee status in the UK and to scrap the appalling Nationality and Borders Bill which will return to this House soon.

The human cost of Afghanistan should never be forgotten. 241,000 people including 71000 civilians dead. 457 British servicewoman and men died with a further 2000 injured plus many thousands suffering from PTSD.

The war has worsened the effects of poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, and environmental degradation on Afghans’ health. The war has also inflicted invisible wounds. In 2009, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported that fully two-thirds of Afghans suffer from mental health conditions.

That is the legacy of a disastrous foreign policy intervention made in 2001 and as politicians here today we must all take heed and learn.

The ramifications and human cost of these decisions will continue to be felt for generations to come and the same mistakes must not be repeated by the present or any future Government.

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