Money from the Scottish Government’s Humanitarian Emergency Fund should be used to help people fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Scottish Greens have said.
Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary, Angus Robertson, has been urged to use the fund to provide aid to Afghans affected by the unfolding crisis.
The Taliban have seized power in all major cities across Afghanistan two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal two decades on from the start of the Afghan war.
People have been attempting to flee the country, fearful of revenge attacks on those who worked with the US or the government, or who have concerns about the re-imposition of harsher interpretations of Islamic law seen when the Taliban previously ran the country between 1996 and 2001.
On Sunday, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the Scottish Government is willing to “play our full part” to help Afghan refugees fleeing the “horrifying situation”.
The SNP’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, has also called for a four-nations summit about the crisis, with a focus on “opening our doors and providing safe routes for resettlement”.
But the Scottish Greens have called for immediate work to begin looking at how the Humanitarian Emergency Fund can provide aid in Afghanistan and for those people trying to flee.
In a letter to Blackford, the party’s international development spokespeople, Maggie Chapman and Ross Greer, said using the Humanitarian Emergency Fund was “one action which can be taken by the Scottish Government without the need to wait for a change of UK policy”.
The £1m annual fund, set up in 2016, has previously been used for those affected by conflict and a locust outbreak in Ethiopia as well as other humanitarian crises in Niger and Beirut.
It is delivered through eight leading humanitarian aid organisations in Scotland that advise the Scottish Government and a spokesman for the government has confirmed that it is in contact with the panel.
Chapman said: “The pictures and stories coming out of Afghanistan are heart-breaking.
“We must open our hearts and our doors to those who need safety, and the Scottish Greens endorse the First Minister’s call [that] the UK Government should accept more refugees.
“It’s clear the Scottish Government must do all it can to help these people who are fleeing for their lives, so while immigration is reserved, the Scottish Government could utilise its Humanitarian Emergency Fund.
“It is hard to envisage a circumstance more sadly fitting of its criteria.”
In response, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We call on all involved to ensure humanitarian access for those in need in Afghanistan, and to avoid further violence.
“We are deeply concerned about the risks posed to civilian lives.
“We urgently call on the UK Government and international community to consider urgently how civilians – especially women, girls and those seeking refuge – can be protected.
“We are in discussions with our humanitarian partners about what more can be done to support those in need.
“As we did with refugees from Syria, the Scottish Government is willing to play our full part and do all we can to help those in peril.”
In his plea for a four-nation summit about the situation in Afghanistan, Blackford also called for the UK Government to reverse its cuts to international aid.
He said: “The appalling situation in Afghanistan is one of the biggest foreign policy failures in modern times – and the UK Government bears its share of responsibility.
“Scotland stands ready to play its full part in resettling refugees and tackling the humanitarian crisis.
“It is vital that the UK Government works with the devolved Governments and shows leadership, including by opening our doors and providing safe routes for resettlement.”
Blackford added: “The immediate priority must be to do everything we can to protect lives – but in time there must also be a chance to review how the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan went so badly wrong.
“The UK Government must commit to a future judge-led inquiry into the war in Afghanistan to ensure full scrutiny, accountability and lessons learned.”