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Afghanistan crisis: Councils respond to call for help

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Waiting for safety: Afghans desperately try to flee country

AFTER speaker after speaker denounced his government’s actions,  Boris Johnson’s retreat from the Commons chamber served as a metaphor for his government’s approach to the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It was a shambolic exit, leaving nothing but bitterness and resentment behind.

PM’s WARM WORDS GET CHILLY RECEPTION

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister said that the consequences of NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan had been known for some time.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister, a former Foreign Secretary, affected both dismay and surprise at the speed at which the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.

He really couldn’t have it both ways.

Either the likely (and present) turn of events was foreseen, in which case, people are entitled to wonder why the government’s announcements sounded like they’d been scribbled on the back of a fag packet. Or there had been an epic failure of intelligence operations and political leadership for which the buck stops with ministers.

The PM announced 5,000 Afghani refugees would be accepted this year (by the end of 2021). But he could not explain how that number was calculated.

Winding back the clock: Taliban whips women

He announced 20,000 Afghani refugees would be accepted over the next five years. The UK Government would provide secure and legal entryways into the UK for those fleeing their homes. But Mr Johnson could not explain how those safe and legal entries could work if the Taliban refused to play ball.

He could confirm the commitment to accept Afghani refugees was additional to the current responsibility to receive 5,000 a year from Syria. But the PM could not explain how that tied in with his own government’s immigration policy.

Mr Johnson could confirm an extra £286m would be devoted to delivering the UK’s promises to those seeking refuge from the Taliban. But he could not explain how that figure had been reached and from where it would be sourced.

Mr Johnson clarified that priority will be given to women and girls and religious and other minorities, who are most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban.

The new scheme is in addition to one for Afghani nationals who were former employees of the UK government. Those individuals are being relocated to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.

Taliban: In control of Kabul Airport

UNPREPARED GOVERNMENT BLASTED

With eighteen months’ notice of American intentions, Mr Johnson couldn’t have been surprised.

Former US President Donald Trump reached a unilateral agreement with the Taliban regarding US troops’ withdrawal in January 2020.

Mr Trump agreed – without consultation with NATO or the UK – US troops would end their operations in Afghanistan by May this year.

If that wasn’t plenty of notice for the UK government to decide on its own next steps, Labour leader Kier Starmer pointed out, it was difficult to see what would have.

Speaking to The Herald, Carmarthen East & Dinfewr MP Jonathan Edwards said: “”For a 20-year war to end in this manner, is not only a betrayal of those who were killed in Afghanistan and those who have been terribly injured, both physically and mentally but also raises serious questions about the exceptionalism which drives the world view of the Westminster establishment.

“The immediate priority must be to repatriate UK citizens who remain in the country and those Afghans who are now in danger after serving as part of the NATO operation.

“With the new regime in control of border crossings and the airport perimeter, providing safe routes for refugees out of Afghanistan without Taliban approval will be very difficult.

“Their fate remains uncertain and should be a matter of shame for the Western countries that have failed them.”

Even as the Commons debate unfolded, the Home Office briefed that those who’ve already fled Afghanistan and who try to enter the UK will get the same reception as other refugees.

The red-carpet treatment announced by the PM will be reserved for those with enough faith in Boris Johnson to wait in situ as religious zealots threaten their liberties and lives.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has released a non-return advisory for Afghanistan.

The Agency calls for a bar on forced returns of Afghan nationals, including asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected.

Hope for the future: Children in Kabul

‘THIS FEELS LIKE DEFEAT’

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, the Chair of the Defence Select Committee, nailed Mr Johnson to the spot as he recounted his own experiences of serving in Afghanistan in both military and civilian roles.

Mr Tugendhat said he had seen “good men go into the earth, taking with a part of me and a part of all of us”.

He added that the Taliban takeover has “torn open” old wounds and “left them raw”.

The MP reserved particular scorn for President Biden, who’d suggested the Afghan army just gave up without the Americans there to support them.

“Those who have not fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have,” he said.

Mr Tugenhadt concluded his emotive address by asking MPs to bear this image in mind: “It is the image of a man whose name I never knew, carrying a child who had died hours earlier – carrying this child into our firebase and begging for help.

“There was nothing we could do. It was over. This is what defeat looks like when you no longer have the choice of how to help.

“This doesn’t need to be defeat but at the moment it damn well feels like it.”

Mr Tugenhadt’s thoughtful contribution contrasted with the vacuous burbling of career contrarian and darling of the dim-witted Sir Desmond Swayne.

The Hampshire MP suggested that rather than fleeing, those seeking refuge should stay and fight.

There’s a word for taking a bold and unarmed stand against opponents with massively superior numbers and armaments.

Like Sir Desmond’s presence in the Commons, it’s pointless.

Trying to escape: Afghan civilians crowd roads

A NATION OF SANCTUARY

The UK has sent about 900 troops to Afghanistan to help evacuate British nationals and Afghans eligible to resettle in the UK.

Welsh Conservative leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies MS, said: “The scenes unfolding in Afghanistan in recent days have been utterly chaotic, and the British Government’s new resettlement scheme will help thousands of at-risk Afghans.

“Many Afghans are in urgent need of our help after working with the UK to make Afghanistan a better place over the last twenty years.

“The UK has a proud history of welcoming those fleeing persecution or oppression, and now it is time for the Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay to step up to the plate and provide support.”

The Welsh Government’s Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, said: “The Welsh government is working very hard with our local authorities, and indeed with the UK government, to ensure that we can do what we can to provide support in the right places to find homes for people fleeing the situation in Afghanistan.

“We are working towards being a nation of sanctuary.”

Ms Hutt added that the Welsh Government appreciated the importance of offering support for other people affected by the Afghan conflict, including veterans and those already settled in Wales.

Plaid Cymru Westminster parliamentary Leader Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “The UK Government has a practical and moral responsibility in ensuring the swift and safe evacuation of British citizens and personnel as well as Afghan nationals linked to the British/NATO mission in Afghanistan.

“This must be done as quickly as possible and, if necessary, allow for the processing of visas and other documentation later once they are safe.

“A quick and safe evacuation must be the priority above all else.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeted: “We want Wales to be a Nation of Sanctuary, and we’ll do everything we can to support evacuations from Afghanistan.

“We’re working with the Home Office and councils on preparations to support those who need it.”

COUNCILS READY TO HELP

On Tuesday evening, the Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association Cllr Andrew Morgan said: “Earlier this evening, as the Leader of the Welsh LGA, with a delegation of other council leaders from across Wales and the UK, we discussed with UK Government Ministers how we can give sanctuary to the Afghan interpreters and their families.”

He added: He said: “If we all sign up to this, we’re talking less than a handful of families actually per local authority area, so the numbers are actually very, very small.

“I wouldn’t want it on my conscience that we see in a month’s time that a number of individuals and families are being killed in Afghanistan when we had the opportunity to help them come here.”

The response from West Wales’s councils has been immediate, with each offering help.

Carmarthenshire has already offered homes to 15 individuals or three households. The first arrived on July 3 on the first evacuation flight operating under the special procedure for former UK Government employees.

A spokesman for Ceredigion County Council said: “In view of the speed and impact of recent events in Afghanistan, Ceredigion County Council is urgently considering the options available and is in contact with the UKG officials.”

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “Pembrokeshire County Council will engage and collaborate with Local Authority colleagues and Welsh Government to support Afghan people impacted by the current situation in Afghanistan.

“The Council will be proactive in its approach, but a set number of placements has yet to be determined.”

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Global Litter Charity has announced the date of its next Welsh litter picking event

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Uocean project Carmarthenshire weekend clean up taking place on Saturday 25th September 21 at Pembrey Country Park

THE UOCEAN Project, part of the Vayyu Foundation, which has set itself the target of removing 1 billion kilos of waste from the world’s oceans by 2030, will be holding its next litter collection taskforce event at Pembrey Country Park  in Carmarthenshire.

Everyone is invited to join The UOcean Project volunteers and to make a difference by collecting litter, especially plastics, which are polluting our environment and ending up in the world’s oceans.  The UOcean Project has highlighted the dramatic increase in litter from plastic bags to face masks since lockdown restrictions were lifted, making it even more important to clean-up and reduce waste pollution. 

Chris Desai, head of The UOcean Project commented. “Picking up one plastic bottle or single use face mask may not appear to be significant, but at each event we are collecting many kilos of plastic because more and more individuals are joining our litter picking teams.

RSVP TO JOIN WWW.THEUOCEANPROJECT.COM

The combined collections here and overseas are the only way to make a difference and start fighting back against pollution.” 

The UOcean Project organises litter pick-up teams who work across the UK, especially around coastlines, as well as internationally.  By organising volunteers into Chapters and providing them with the tools and equipment to pick up litter, they have already collected 53,000 kilos of waste which would have ended up in the seas.  

All volunteers are provided with the equipment needed to safely pick up litter so that it can be disposed of in the right way.  For more information about The UOcean Project please go to the website www.theuoceanproject.com

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Warning! Dangerous Valium circulating in Llanelli

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the drugs being distributed and used in the Llanelli area at present could be extremely dangerous

Warning! Dangerous Valium circulating in

POLICE are warning drug users in Llanelli to take extra care following information received that dangerous valium is circulating in the area.

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: “We have reasons to believe that the drugs being distributed and used in the Llanelli area at present could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately should they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone that you believe could come into contact with these drugs.”

To seek advice and support, visit https://barod.cymru/where-to-get-help/west-wales-services/ddas-dyfed-drug-and-alcohol-service/

Please be aware that some services may operate an automated service outside office hours.

In an emergency, or if you think someone’s life is at risk, always dial 999.

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Parents warned to look out for respiratory illness in children

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RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season

RESPIRATORY Syncytial Virus (RSV) is circulating amongst children and toddlers in the Hywel Dda area (Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire)  

Hywel Dda UHB Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive Dr Philip Kloer said: “Because of the COVID restrictions, there have been few cases of RSV during the pandemic, but this virus has returned and in higher numbers now people are mixing more.

“RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season, and causes very few problems to the majority of children.  However, very young babies, particularly those born prematurely, and children with heart or lung conditions, can be seriously affected and it’s important that parents are aware of the actions to take.”

Parents are being encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children, including:

*a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever)

*a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

The best way to prevent RSV is to wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser regularly, dispose of used tissues correctly, and to keep surfaces clean and sanitised.

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if:

  • You are worried about your child.
  • Your child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
  • Your child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
  • Your child seems very tired or irritable.

Dial 999 for an ambulance if:

  • your baby is having difficulty breathing
  • your baby’s tongue or lips are blue
  • there are long pauses in your baby’s breathing
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