Politics

Britain is ready to soak up greater than 50,000 Afghan refugees, says David Davis

Victoria Jones – PA Images via Getty Images“If someone has a right to asylum, it is someone whose life is in danger for helping us,” said David Davis.

Senior Conservative David Davis said Britain should try to take in refugees “north of 50,000” after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

The former Brexit secretary told HuffPost UK that the UK had a greater “direct moral responsibility” for accepting refugees from Afghanistan than it did after the civil war in Syria, after which Britain agreed to resettle 20,000 refugees over a five-year period.

A massive program to evacuate British citizens, civil servants, diplomats and local allies is underway in Afghanistan as those who helped the British war effort fear reprisals from the country’s new rulers.

The Taliban held their first press conference since taking over Afghanistan on Tuesday, at which a spokesman wanted to assure that “no one will be harmed.”

“Whoever worked in the military, in translation we pardoned everyone, there is no vengeance,” they said.

But Davis, who had previously served in the military, expressed skepticism that the Taliban could be believed and said the UK needed to launch a “major intelligence operation” to screen those looking for a safe haven in the UK.

“If someone has a right to asylum, it is someone whose life is in danger for helping us,” he said.

“In the last two years we have invented capacities for other things, let’s do it for that.”

The former cabinet minister also called on Boris Johnson to convene a G7 emergency summit to discuss the implications of the Taliban’s takeover – something the prime minister signaled after a phone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The agenda is how western nations vote, how many refugees they open up.

So far the government has refused to give a number on how many Afghan refugees it will take in the UK, but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Johnson will “finalize the details in due course”.

Davis said the UK should exceed the 20,000 Syrian refugees it wanted to take over for a period of five years after the civil war.

“First of all, Afghanistan’s population is twice the population of Syria, and the threat is greater and we have a more direct moral responsibility,” he said.

“I think we have a much bigger responsibility than that – you are probably talking many times over – north of 50,000 people.”

The Lib Dems said the UK should take in “at least” 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan.

But Labor leader Keir Starmer said Tuesday it was not a “helpful discussion” to talk about a number.

“The first discussion has to be: is there a plan, is there a strategy for safe and legal escape routes for refugees from Afghanistan, and how quickly can that be implemented?” He said.

Davis was one of 24 Tory MPs who rebelled against the government’s decision to cut its international aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of total national income – the equivalent of about £ 4 billion.

At the time, he said the decision would have “devastating consequences for the whole world”.

Raab has since said the UK will increase aid to Afghanistan by 10%, a move Davis describes as “meaningless” as the UK is cutting its direct aid to the country by an estimated 78%.

When asked if the refugee issue would be the next topic to split Tory MPs, he replied, “I think they will ask security questions like me, but that just makes it difficult.

“These are people to whom we owe a moral responsibility.”

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