Moray MP Douglas Ross joined MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum earlier today to receive an update on the situation in Afghanistan from Ministers and officials from the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. Also on the call to inform Westminster politicians about the situation on the ground was UK Ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow.
Commenting after the meeting Douglas said: “People across Moray continue to worry about the situation in Afghanistan as we get closer to the 31st of August when the US have said they want to have withdrawn fully from the country. The call with senior Ministers and officials from key departments was useful to allow me to update local constituents who are contacting me in significant numbers about the ongoing situation.
“However, it was the update from our Ambassador which really hit home. He and his officials, supported by our incredible Armed Forces, are processing applications as quickly as possible to help people get out of the country and back to the UK. He was particularly keen to highlight how much the Embassy staff appreciated the support they had received from across the UK and on social media for their efforts in the most trying of circumstances.
“The number of people being flown out of Afghanistan by the UK military has increased considerably in recent days and we can only hope as many people as possible get out while there are options to do so. We were also updated on a number of people who sought to come to the UK but, due to their place on ‘No fly’ lists because of the risks they pose, were prevented from doing so. This shows the system is working and will hopefully reassure people that only those who should be allowed into the UK are gaining entry.”
Douglas also welcomed the news that visas had been granted for 68 staff at former Marine Paul "Pen" Farthing's animal sanctuary in Afghanistan.
During the ongoing evacuation of people from Afghanistan, Pen Farthing refused to leave without the staff who have helped him care for and rehome more than 1700 abandoned animals in Kabul since he established his charity, Nowzad, in 2007. This is another issue many people in Moray had contacted Douglas about and he was pleased the UK government responded promptly to these calls.
Douglas said: "I am pleased that the the Prime Minister responded quickly to the campaign Operation Ark to ensure that Pen and his staff can all be evacuated.
"Nowzad was founded by Pen back in 2007, the year after he was deployed to the town of that name in Helmand Province with the Royal Marines. As an animal lover, like so many people here in Moray, he was horrified at the number of stray animals and decided to do what he could to help.
"As well as rescuing dogs, cats, donkeys, goats and cows, Nowzad has also trained around 500 veterinary students in Kabul over the years and I am delighted that his determination to ensure safe passage to the UK for his staff, many of whom are Afghans, will now go ahead."