Yesterday Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller announced that the city will be taking in refugees from Afghanistan following the country’s takeover from the Taliban amidst the rapid withdrawal of the United States and its allies. Most people of course will appreciate this as an act of compassion given the sense of “responsibility” the UK advocates for its role in the conflict and the lives that have subsequently been put at risk for it.
Miller of course, was under no obligation to volunteer the city and it should be no surprise that the announcement has come with widespread opposition from many in its population. Of course, the exact number has not even been established so one should not jump to conclusions. As he tells the echo: “Sunderland is working to support the national resettlement programme.
“If Afghan refugees arrive in Sunderland they will be supported with accommodation and assistance. Obviously we are all saddened to see the tragic scenes in Afghanistan and it’s only right and correct that we look to where and how our city can offer support. We very much want to assist Afghans who are resettling in the United Kingdom.”
“The first and most important aspect of this is accommodation and the City Council is working with the city’s social registered landlords on what housing could be available…. As well as housing we are working with Government to understand the terms of new funding arrangements to support response efforts and also what help we can supply through our strong voluntary and charity community”
However, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. It is easy to blame refugees aimlessly for life changing and threatening events that force them to flee, and people should be more appreciative of these circumstances. We in the west have lived for the past 75 years or so incredible privilege, and if you were faced with a choice between life, or death for that matter, you would run too right?
It is harder, on the other hand, to recognize that it is easier and more productive for Britain as a whole to avoid participating in wholesale conflicts at the behest of the interests of the United States, and it is on this premise that Sunderland is paying the price. The refugee flow we now experience is a fallout of a situation they created, and we the UK endorsed.
Sunderland is a place immensely proud of their veterans, but that doesn’t always mean the conflicts politicians send them off to fight in are always worthwhile. Consider the young Nathan Cuthbertson, who at 19 years old died in Afghanistan. Is it right for Sunderland lives to be sacrificed at the altar for Britain’s constant kowtowing to America’s costly and often violent adventurism into far-reaching parts of the world?
Sometimes it ought to be appreciated that Britain’s “national interests” do not coincide with America’s. They are happy to use us as they please, but discard us as they see fit. Many oppose refugee flows because they fear they will take up their resources, housing, or assume harsh stereotypes that they will believe in ways detrimental to society. But the point is, it is better not to start the war than to have to clean up the mess.
All of these American led wars in the 21st century, including Iraq, Libya and Syria, have undermined the safety and security of the United Kingdom by through a vicious cycle of proliferating radicalisation and terrorism, refugee flows and the rise of right wing populist politics. With the closure of Afghanistan, the cycle is repeating itself. Our country, and our city ultimately pays the price for it.
Needless to say, we expect this decision to be a politically unpopular choice for the Labour Council regardless, but that’s not who you should be aiming your anger at.