UK must 'open safe and legal routes for those fearing persecution' in Afghanistan - Christian Aid

(Photo: Channel 4 News)

Christian Aid is calling on the UK government and wider international community to help the people of Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

Despite promises from the Taliban that there will be no revenge killings and that women's rights will be protected, many Afghans are fearful of what life will bring under their new rulers.

Christian Aid is calling on the UK to immediately suspend all deportations of Afghan asylum seekers and refugees from the UK, and to "open safe and legal routes for those fearing persecution".

The aid agency, which already launched a hunger appeal in July due to a famine risk, is also warning of a spiralling humanitarian crisis with over half a million people in Afghanistan displaced this year, most of them women and children. 

It warns that these numbers are set to increase "rapidly". 

In "an indication that programmes with a clear humanitarian focus are allowed to continue", Christian Aid said its partners have so far been able to continue with some food and hygiene kit distributions, and that a UK-funded project in Kunduz led by the Organisation for Coordination and Humanitarian Relief (OCHR) is still operating. 

Subrata De, Christian Aid's country manager in Afghanistan, said: "The situation is dire and more support will be required for poor and marginalised communities in the coming days.

"Christian Aid has been working in Afghanistan for 30 years and we will not desert now. We're doing all we can to continue distributions of food and emergency supplies to the most affected communities.

"We hope that humanitarian access will remain, especially access to women and girls in the communities as we are very concerned about their safety.

"As an Indian national, I have been lucky enough to evacuate safely but our staff, their families and the thousands of people we support, are living with uncertainty and insecurity."

Fionna Smyth, head of global advocacy & policy at Christian Aid, said: "We urge the UK Government to take action on four key areas; to work closely with the United Nations and wider donor community, to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided to those most in need in the face of a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis, to immediately suspend all deportations from the UK of Afghan asylum seekers and refugees and open safe and legal routes for those fearing persecution.

"The UK government should use its influence to encourage and support neighbouring states including with funding to allow refugees to flee without fear of being sent back; and finally, to do everything in its power to protect Afghan women, including human rights defenders, and civil society actors who have been encouraged to take leadership positions and who are now at grave risk.

"The impact of decades of conflict and displacement has recently been compounded by increasing climate shocks, rising food insecurity and COVID-19, which has left almost half of Afghanistan's population in need of emergency humanitarian assistance."