SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has called for communities across the Western Isles and Scotland as a whole to prepare to welcome and support people fleeing the terrible situation in Afghanistan over the coming weeks and months.
“Scotland has a long and proud history of opening wide our doors to those seeking refuge from war, famine and persecution all over the world,” Allan commented earlier today. “The horror many of us have felt at watching events in Afghanistan unfold over the past fortnight is nothing compared to that experienced by the people on the ground there, and I know that people here will want to do whatever they can to help.
“The Western Isles have been enriched by the families who have moved here from Syria in recent years, with local people rallying around to help the new arrivals make the Isles their home. It is my hope that we can also soon give the same heartfelt welcome to families from Afghanistan who have had to leave their own homes, jobs and communities behind under the very worst of circumstances.
“The strength of feeling and solidarity for the people of Afghanistan from those in the Western Isles is clear, and I have had a huge number of constituents contact me to express their concern over this humanitarian crisis, as well as raising awareness about family members and charity workers who are still awaiting urgent evacuation. I have been working along with my SNP colleagues in Holyrood and Westminster to urge the Foreign Secretary to prioritise those who are most vulnerable, particularly the female Afghan staff members of charities such as the Linda Norgrove Foundation.”
The Linda Norgrove Foundation was established following the tragic death of aid worker Linda Norgrove during a rescue mission after she was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2010. Linda had been overseeing a USAID project set up to create jobs and support economies in fragile areas of Afghanistan.
The charity was founded by Linda’s parents, who live in the Isle of Lewis, and for over 10 years has been helping women and children affected by the war in Afghanistan. The foundation has raised over £2 million so far to fund over 175 grassroots projects, and currently provides scholarships to 170 women studying at colleges and universities in Afghanistan.
“Linda would have been devasted by this” said John Norgrove, Linda’s father. “She always said that when she was in Afghanistan she could leave at any time but that isn’t available to ordinary Afghans […] We made a commitment to the women who have scholarships with us that we’ll support them until graduation. Whether it’s possible they’ll be able to continue studying, we don’t know.”
The Foundation hopes to be able to arrange for 20 of their medical students to come to the UK to continue with their studies, and all five of Scotland’s medical schools have agreed to help facilitate this.
Several local authorities in Scotland have already begun accepting Afghan families, with others making preparations to do so in the coming weeks. On Tuesday of this week, Scotland’s First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister urging the UK Government to agree to resettle far more than the current commitment of just 5,000 Afghan refugees in the first year, and 20,000 in the long term. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also requested greater clarity about the UK’s ongoing response to the crisis in Afghanistan, as well as further information on how many civilians, particularly women, girls and others in need of refuge, would be protected.