Londoners tend to support resettlement of refugees from Afghanistan

A YouGov survey found that more than half of Londoners would support the introduction of a resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees in the UK.

In light of the Taliban claiming control of Afghanistan and the ongoing evacuation of its citizens, YouGov collated opinions from 1,703 adults across Great Britain on the issue of refugee resettlement.

The survey shows 54% of Londoners would support the introduction of such a scheme, with 26% opposed and 20% undecided.

Cheryl Andrews, 38, from Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees said: “I think it’s brilliant – I’ve definitley noticed we’ve had a lot more interest from people contacting us saying what can I do to help.

“With the horrendous crisis in Afghanistan, it’s in the public’s mind at the moment – it’s headline news and people are responding compassionately and they want the UK to take responsibility under the UN Refugee Convention.”

According to the survey, 52% of people who took part would support the introduction of a resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees in the UK.

People who voted Labour in the 2019 General Election were more likely to support such a scheme (69%) compared to those who voted for the Conservative party (45%).

Out of those surveyed, 70% of people who voted remain in the 2016 EU referendum voted in favour of the government introducing a resettlement scheme, with 15% opposed.

This differed to people who voted leave in 2016, with 37% voting in support of a resettlement scheme and 44% in opposition.

Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees have launched a petition urging Wandsworth Council to support the establishment of a resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees in the borough.

Cheryl said: “We feel we can take in at least 30 Afghan refugees a year.

“With the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) the numbers were disappointingly low in the borough.

“We definitley feel this time around we can take care and support a lot more people, and we feel that there’s really strong public support for this.”

Last Saturday, the Home Office stated a record number of migrants crossing the English Channel were intercepted by the UK.

According to a BBC report, an estimated 3.5 million Afghans are internally displaced within the country, and with Kabul airport being the only operational one in the country, organisations are calling on international governments to do all they can to aid the evacuation of Afghan citizens.

Airbnb announced this week it will temporarily house 20,000 refugees across the world, free of charge, to help support those fleeing the Taliban.

Charities and organisations across the UK are also impressing on the government the necessity of taking in and supporting as many Afghan refugees as possible.

According to the YouGov survey, 55% of Londoners felt the UK has a moral obligation to take in refugees from Afghanistan, with 48% of the overall survey also in favour.

Cheryl said: “A moral obligation is a big responsibility and the fact that 48% of people think that is fantastic.”

Opinions on this moral obligation varied: 37% of people who voted Conservative in 2019 agreed the UK has a moral obligation to take in Afghan refugees, and 67% of Labour voters agreed with this.

Fewer people who voted leave in 2016 agreed the UK has a moral obligation to take in Afghan refugees (33%), compared to 67% of people who voted remain in 2016.

Cheryl spoke of the importance of this obligation in light of the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which, if introduced, will criminalise entry to the UK via unofficial means.

Refugee charities have voiced their concerns about the bill and the barriers it could impose on those seeking safety in the UK.

Cheryl said: “The UN Refugee Convention stated that all countries have a responsibility to take in people who are fearing for their lives, fleeing violence and persecution, and the bill going through could compromise that.

“I really hope if 48% of people think we have a moral obligation (to protect refugees), people will put pressure on the government to change this bill, because I think people do realise we have a responsibility to help people who would otherwise be killed.”

Currently, the Home Office has outlined what support it intends to provide for Afghan refugees in its Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.

The Scheme aims to take in 5,000 refugees from Afghanistan in year one, and 20,000 in the long term.

If you are reading this and want to do more to help, Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees have a newsletter and WhatsApp group with updated information on how to support refugees in the borough.

Featured image credit: “Afghan Former Refugees at UNHCR Returnee Camp” by United Nations Photo is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Creative Commons.

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