Afghans will find sanctuary in NI says First Minister Paul Givan

Northern Ireland stands ready to offer “sanctuary” to Afghans seeking refuge following the lightning takeover of the country by the Taliban, political leaders have said.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 19th August 2021, 8:04 am
Updated Thursday, 19th August 2021, 8:16 am
Former Afghan interpreters and veterans hold a demonstration in Parliament Square, London, calling for support and protection for Afghan interpreters and their families. Picture date: Wednesday August 18, 2021. PA Photo. The Taliban militant group moved into Kabul on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, ending two decades of the UK and its allies trying to transform the country. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Former Afghan interpreters and veterans hold a demonstration in Parliament Square, London, calling for support and protection for Afghan interpreters and their families. Picture date: Wednesday August 18, 2021. PA Photo. The Taliban militant group moved into Kabul on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, ending two decades of the UK and its allies trying to transform the country. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

First Minister Paul Givan described the “pain and suffering” endured by many Afghans as “profound” as he welcomed political agreement to “offer what sanctuary we can” to those caught up in the humanitarian crisis.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said work is going on to “scope out” what assistance the Stormont government can offer.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, meanwhile, paid tribute to soldiers from Northern Ireland who lost their lives in Afghanistan during an emergency debate in the House of Commons.

He added: “First and foremost we must look to the humanitarian assistance that is now so urgently required, and especially to those men and women who supported our armed forces in Afghanistan.

“We need to step up now, as they stepped up for us during this war in Afghanistan.”

He was one of many MPs speaking in a packed Commons chamber as demonstrators gathered at Parliament Square to protest the government’s handling of support for Afghan citizens who assisted British forces during the conflict.

The protestors, who are former translators for the British Army, held banners and signs showing images of people gravely injured in Afghanistan, with captions including ‘Protect our loved ones’ and ‘Do not leave anyone behind’.

Mr Givan, meanwhile, highlighted the recent record on offering refuge to people fleeing the war in Syria as he insisted Northern Ireland has “not been found wanting when it comes to those seeking refuge or fleeing persecution”.