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The Afghan crisis: how students can help

Approximately 10,000 Afghans will be resettled in the UK this year following the Taliban takeover.

After more than four decades of conflict, Afghanistan now has 3 million internally displaced people. A further 2.6 million have been forced to become refugees in other countries such as Pakistan and Iran. This major displacement crisis has worsened with the recent withdrawal of international troops in Afghanistan, which led to an additional 550,000 internally displaced Afghans since the start of 2021.

With human rights swiftly deteriorating under Taliban rule, especially women’s rights, many families have been forced to flee their country with little to no possessions, headed for an uncertain future.

Two schemes are now in place to resettle Afghan refugees in the UK: the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), which prioritises Afghans who worked for the British army or other UK institutions, and the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme, which will relocate vulnerable people. Many refugees are also likely to make their way to the UK independently through Calais.

Around 60 families and 73 individuals are expected to arrive in Scotland under the Afghans relocations and assistance policy, with Glasgow and Inverclyde having drawn up plans to house the most refugees. With the government declaring it would resettle around 20,000 Afghan refugees long-term in the UK, the SNP have argued that asylum should be given to at least 35,000 Afghans. They further condemned the Nationality and Borders Bill as being a detriment to Afghan refugees arriving in the UK, as they will be at greater risk of being deported.

11,000 Afghans have already been evacuated with most now being housed in hotels near UK airports until permanent accommodation is found. They must complete a 10-day Covid quarantine on arrival before being relocated elsewhere.

Outside of government policy, what can students do to help?

Swap Depop for Donations

Most Afghans have arrived in the UK with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Care4Calais, a charity that works with refugees in the UK, has set up donation points across the country in order to provide refugees with essential items; the nearest donation point to Edinburgh is a 30-minute car drive from Waverly train station. They are looking for donations of good quality shoes and coats, baby carriers, and unlocked smartphones in particular. All donations need to be labelled into bags that show the size and age of the items.

Refuweegee is a charity based in Glasgow that provides emergency support packs to refugees arriving in Scotland. They are asking for donations of non-perishable food, toiletries, tech items, board games, colouring books and pens, clean toys, rucksacks, blankets, and books. You can find out where and how to donate to Refuweegee, here.

Sacrifice That Last Round and Donate Money Instead

Whilst no student’s pocket is deep, most of us have some money to spare. Charities such as Care4Calais need monetary donations to buy essential items and fund the cost of hiring storage units and transport. You can donate to Care4Calais, here, and to Refuweegee, here.

The Scottish Refugee Council, which provides practical support and advice to refugees in order to help them rebuild their lives in Scotland, also takes monetary donations in order to fund their services. A donation of £30 would provide practical support and baby essentials to a new mum. You can donate to the Scottish Refugee Council, here.

Get Involved With Student Societies

As a student at the University of Edinburgh, there are many ways to support refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Scotland. The Edinburgh branch of Student Action for Refugees (STAR) is part of a UK-wide network of over 12,000 students welcoming refugees to the UK. STAR focuses on volunteering at local refugee projects, campaigning to improve the lives of refugees, educating people about refugees and asylum, and fundraising to welcome refugees. Find out how to get involved with the University of Edinburgh STAR by contacting them on Facebook (@STAREdUni), Instagram (@star.edinburgh), or email starefugeesedinburgh@gmail.com

Contact Your Local MP

Safe Passage is a charity that works to help unaccompanied child refugees relocate safely and legally. They are currently organising a campaign to pressure MPs to support Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban. Safe Passage has written an email template found here, that asks MPs to commit to quickly resettling at least 20,000 Afghans in the UK and 100,000 a year globally; to reunite those with family still in Afghanistan by bringing them to safety in the UK; and to offer protection to Afghans seeking asylum in the UK, no matter how they arrived. The charity emails the template to your local MP for you; all you need to do is type in your postcode in order to locate your MP. 

Educate Yourself

There are hundreds of articles and books that explain how and why to get involved in supporting refugees, both from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Follow relevant accounts on social media and engage in discourse surrounding refugees. Understanding why people are forced to become refugees, the current responses we have towards refugees and asylum seekers, and the impact refugees have on different cross sections of society, can allow us to reduce social inequalities, violence, and racism, and prevent widespread displacement. 

Image via Flickr

By Kate Sinclair

Politics student and Features editor at The Student. Interested in environmental politics and social justice.