Labour has accused Government ministers of being “missing in action” during the Afghanistan evacuation crisis.
As the final flight of UK military personnel left Kabul airport, there were claims that up to 9,000 people who may have been eligible to escape – such as women, journalists, and aid workers – had been left behind, the Sunday Times reported.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace previously said he believed there were between 800 and 1,100 Afghans eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme who would be left behind, while up to UK nationals will remain in Afghanistan, although Wallace said some of those were staying willingly.
But MPs have said that judging by their correspondence, they believe the true numbers are far higher. The airport has been besieged by Afghans desperate to flee the country.
Meanwhile, The Observer claimed thousands of emails from MPs and charities highlighting potentially eligible cases went unread by the Foreign Office.
The Foreign Office told The Sunday Times: “This has been the biggest and most challenging evacuation in living memory – a team effort that would not have been possible without the Foreign Office.”
But the newspaper reported that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s decision to remain on holiday at the start of the crisis meant up to 1,000 people had not been evacuated who could have been.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC and Sky that he worked from Crete while the Afghanistan crisis unfolded
(Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Meanwhile, a whistleblower with access to Foreign Office email accounts reportedly showed The Observer that an inbox used to receive information on potential Afghan evacuation cases from MPs and others regularly had a 5,000 unread email backlog, with emails from Government ministers, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, and MPs going unopened.
Mr Starmer said: “The complacency and incompetence of this Government has been exposed yet again and with tragic consequences. We’ve known for 18 months that this moment was coming.
“It is unconscionable that there was no strategy in place to get all the British nationals and Afghans we owed a debt to out.
“I pay tribute to all the FCDO staff and military personnel who have, as ever, stepped up when their leaders have failed them.
“The fact that so many emails have simply gone unopened is not the fault of civil servants but of government ministers who have been missing in action during this whole crisis.
“MPs and their staff have been hearing harrowing stories from so many people we should have taken care of but who have been abandoned to the Taliban.”
Labour MPs tweeted about the efforts their staff had gone to collate the information to send to officials.
Mr Starmer added: “Can the Government tell us how many of the people in those emails got out, or more importantly haven’t who were eligible to?”
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