Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has been urged by a Holyrood minister to do more to help with the “truly dire” human rights and humanitarian crisis engulfing Afghanistan.
International Development Minister Neil Gray urged the UK Government to invest in the asylum system to “increase the quality and speed of asylum decisions” as part of a more than 1,400-word letter to the Foreign Secretary on Saturday.
As part of his calls, the SNP MSP said he felt there was more to be done to support human rights activists, making sure they can continue their work in a safe place, as well as consulting with organisations to make sure they have further information on the support the UK can provide.
In the letter, Mr Gray said: “The situation in Afghanistan is truly dire.
“I urge the UK to do more to work with international partners to address the humanitarian and human rights situation, as well as to do more to ensure that those requiring asylum have their cases speedily and fairly assessed.”
He also called for Westminster to take practical steps to protect campaigners and at risk groups, including women and activists from minority ethnic communities, by supporting their move out of Afghanistan and also by offering funded research programmes in areas like women’s or children’s rights.
Mr Gray said the Scottish Government remained “very firmly committed to welcoming and supporting people fleeing from Afghanistan”, but was “concerned about current delays in the asylum system”.
He highlighted Home Office statistics which he said showed 160,000 people waiting an initial decision on their asylum application, including nearly 110,000 who had been waiting longer than six months.
“The UK Government must invest in the UK asylum system to increase the quality and speed of asylum decision. That is the only way to uphold the UK’s international responsibilities to recognise and protect people forced to flee persecution,” he said.
“It will also reduce the risk of people who need to rebuild their lives in a place of safety being left in prolonged limbo, during which they are restricted from working to support themselves and our economy.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK is working hard with international partners to challenge the Taliban’s violations and abuses of women’s rights, girls’ education and freedom of expression and has highlighted and condemned such abuses.”
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