Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has urged the government to step up protection for Britons and Afghans eligible to come to the UK after claims they had been ‘shot at, beaten and raped’ as they queued to be evacuated at Kabul airport.
The Wigan MP shared a letter on social media that she had sent to under-fire Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about the ‘crisis’ facing evacuees as she sought additional assistance for those on the ground.
The senior Opposition figure said Labour MPs had been hearing of people being ‘shot at, beaten and raped’ while they wait to be called forward at the airport, while the Baron Hotel in the city, where many British nationals are being told to travel to for processing, is being blockaded by the Taliban.
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Ms Nandy asked whether Nato allies could put in place a ‘military policing operation’ at the gates of the airport or within the internal processing zone to protect those waiting.
She also called for ‘safe corridors’ to be implemented to allow those outside Kabul who are looking to reach the UK to travel to the capital without fear of interference from the militants.
It comes as the Foreign Secretary Mr Raab faced further revelations about his decision to remain on holiday while the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital, with claims he stayed abroad despite being told to return to the UK.
According to the Sunday Times, Mr Raab was ordered home from his trip in Crete by Downing Street on August 13 but stayed for two more days at his five-star hotel on the Greek island because Boris Johnson told him he could.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy
(Image: Getty Images)
The newspaper quotes a senior government official as saying there was a ‘sense of disbelief’ in No 10 when the Cabinet minister was not present in person for talks on Sunday, adding: “He seems to have nobbled Boris after he was told to come back.”
The Foreign Secretary returned to the UK on Monday after Kabul had fallen to the insurgents.
The Prime Minister has already had to give Mr Raab his backing once after he found himself in the firing line over his handling of the unfolding situation.
It emerged he delegated a call about repatriating Afghan interpreters, while away on August 13, to a junior minister – a decision that resulted in the phone conversation with the Afghan foreign minister not taking place and possibly delaying taking them to safety.
Ms Nandy has accused Mr Raab of showing ‘disregard’ for those waiting to be rescued in Afghanistan.
She said: “It’s staggering that the Foreign Secretary found the time to pick up the phone to lobby the Prime Minister to extend his own holiday, but refused to call the Afghan government in the hours before Kabul fell to the Taliban.
“It’s little wonder that the Prime Minister wasn’t able to order others back to Westminster when he chose to go on holiday himself as the Taliban were advancing on Kabul.
“Britain cannot afford a Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary who show such disregard for the lives of British nationals and our allies.”
There were more embarrassing reports for the Foreign Office on Saturday, on a day when the situation in Afghanistan worsened, with Sky News reporting that Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the minister directly responsible for south Asia, was also on leave until Sunday enjoying a break in Britain.
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Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon was holidaying in the UK as Kabul fell, according to multiple reports.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokeswoman said: “Lord Ahmad has been working closely with the Foreign Secretary and the FCDO team throughout the response to events in Afghanistan, including engaging with international partners.”
Meanwhile, the US embassy in Afghanistan is recommending that US citizens avoid travelling to Kabul airport ‘because of potential security threats outside the gates’, with reports of violent scenes and overcrowding at the main entrance and at Taliban checkpoints.
A senior US official said the potential threat stemmed from so-called Islamic State, with the military forced to look for new ways of getting evacuees to the airfield.
In an indication of how bad the situation has become, former Afghan diplomat Zubair Juenda said he had to go through ‘the gate of hell’ to get out of Afghanistan with his wife and two children, aged nine and 10.
He told Channel 4 News: “Adults have been crushed by people… I passed out myself after being crushed, but six people died outside the camp.”
Time is running out to repatriate people to the UK ahead of US President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw most remaining US troops.