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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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Community checks out new Carmarthenshire Policing Hub and Custody Suite

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POLICE and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn today (24.06.22) hosted an open doors event for local stakeholders at Dyfed-Powys’ new Custody Suite and Policing Hub, that is currently under construction at Dafen, Llanelli Carmarthenshire.

Planning permission was granted to the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner by Carmarthenshire County Council back in April 2021 for the proposed development, which is to be an ambitious sustainable construction, with a BREEAM excellence rating.

Wilmott Dixon, who are the Construction Contractor have been on site since autumn preparing for the first construction phases, with specific progress now beginning made on the development, that aims to be completed by May 2023.

PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said; “This is a major investment for us which will see an ambitious, modern, sustainable fit for purpose policing hub and custody suite that will meet the needs and expectations of modern policing. 

“During the planning application process between 2020 and 2021, we engaged widely with the local community,  and It was a pleasure to open the door, and welcome local community representatives to the construction site today, to show the progress that has been made to date.

“I’ve worked extremely hard with partners over recent years to ensure that we get to this position and I now look forward to seeing the construction work continue to develop at pace over the year”.

In being a BREEAM related development, the new build will offer a more sustainable environment, that aims to enhance the well-being of the people who work within it, and help protect natural resources.

Amongst some of the sustainable credentials of the new build will be a photovoltaic solar power installation to minimise the carbon footprint of the building; a rainwater harvesting facility for toilets and non-potable water, and electric car charging facilities.

Chief Inspector Richard Hopkin, Dyfed-Powys Police’s operational lead on the new build, said: “We feel very fortunate to be having a new build custody suite and hub coming to Llanelli.

“Our current Llanelli estate is old, so to see a new build that is being designed with such consideration for the environment and the wellbeing of our staff and the community within which it sits is really positive.

“The development will provide a fit for purpose, future proof solution which will complement the town centre Neighbourhood Police Team base.”

Ian Jones, Director at Willmott Dixon commented, “This is the first project that we have worked on with Dyfed Powys Police, and as part of what has being a collaborative partnership, we are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver this development. 

“This is a purpose‐built, new custody suite to replace and supplement provision of custody within Carmarthenshire which will provide excellent facilities to meet the needs of modern law enforcement and detainee wellbeing for Dyfed Powys Police. 

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to welcome guests to the site to show them first-hand how construction is progressing.”

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Ryan Giggs quits as Wales manager with ‘immediate effect’

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EX Man-Utd winger has left his position as the manager of the national football team with ‘immediate effect’.

Giggs stepped back from his role in November 2020 following after being arrested.

49-year-old Giggs has been charged with assault and using controlling behaviour towards an ex-partner. A claim that Giggs has denied.

In a heartfelt statement on his decision, Giggs said: “After much consideration, I am standing down from my position as manager of the Wales men’s national team with immediate effect.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to manage my country, but it is only right that the Wales FA, the coaching staff and the players prepare for the tournament with certainty, clarification and without speculation around the position of their head coach.

“I do not want the country’s preparations for the World Cup to be affected, destabilised or jeopardised in any way by the continued interest around this case.

“I am sad that we cannot continue this journey together because I believe that this extraordinary group will make the country proud at our first World Cup since 1958.

“It is my intention to resume my managerial career at a later date.”

Following Giggs arrest in 2020, former Wales captain Robert Page took over as interim manager.

Under Page Wales beat Ukraine to earn themselves a place at Qatar World Cup for the first time in 64 years.

Giggs faces one charge of using controlling and coercive behaviour August 2017 and November 2020, one charge of assault causing actual bodily harm of his ex-girlfriend Kate Greville on November 1, 2020.

He also faces a charge of common assault on the victim’s sister.

Giggs denies all charges against him and will stand trial on August 8.

The trial is expected to last five days.

Following the announcement, a FAW spokesperson said: “The FAW places on record its gratitude to Ryan Giggs for his tenure as manager of the Cymru men’s national team and appreciates the decision he has taken, which is in the best interests of Welsh football,

“The full focus of the FAW and the Cymru men’s national team is on the Fifa World Cup in Qatar later this year.”

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M&S opticians opens its doors in Llanelli Parc Trostre

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MARKS & SPENCER has opened the newest branch of its M&S Opticians service, located in the retailer’s popular Llanelli store.

M&S Llanelli Parc Trostre will offer customers an expert opticians service, which includes a full eye health examination (OCT scan) for every eye test booked at no additional fee.

Free eye tests are available as an opening offer, as well as 15% off glasses and sunglasses for Sparks customers. There’s a wide range of designer brands to choose from including Mulberry, Prada, Joules, Kate Spade, Oakley, Police, Maui Jim along with leading lens manufacturers – Zeiss and Nikon.

Expert advice on contact lens fitting and wearing is also on hand, alongside a contact lens home delivery option. The store will also be home to a hearing aid audiologist who will be offering free hearing health checks along with latest hearing aid technology, including rechargeable models and mobile connectivity.

In addition to the physical experience in-store, customers can book appointments online here, as well as view, purchase and try on glasses via the innovative ‘virtual try on’ tool here

M&S Llanelli Parc Trostre is the second optician service to open in Wales following a successful trial across ten UK cities, during which the service received a customer satisfaction rate of 96% and a customer recommendation rate of 96%.

M&S Llanelli Parc Trostre Store Manager, Aled Bonnell, said: “We’re always looking for ways to make shopping at M&S even more rewarding and feedback from our trial showed that customers loved the convenience of having an Opticians service in our store. We’re really excited to be opening our M&S Opticians in Llanelli and hearing what our customers think. The choice of different brands we’re offering is second to none and we have brilliant opening offers to suit all budgets.”

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