Carol Monaghan, MP for Glasgow North West, has called on the UK Government to introduce a relocation scheme tailored to support Afghan academics and teachers.
During Education Questions in the House of Commons on Monday, Ms Monaghan called upon the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to implement a scheme similar to the PAUSE Programme in France.
PAUSE stands for the National Programme for the Urgent Aid and Reception of Academics in Exile (or Programme d’aide à l’Accueil en Urgence des Scientifiques en Exil). The Programme supports and relocates academics and teachers from conflict zones and politically volatile areas.
In many countries around the world, academics, educators, and researchers (and their loved ones) are vulnerable to targeting and persecution as a result of speaking out against despotism, violence, and corruption.
This is a very real and pressing reality for many Afghan intellectuals and researchers. Since the Taliban takeover in August, the risk to academics’ and educators’ lives is considerable in Afghanistan. According to the United Nations, around half a million Afghans could flee the country by the end of 2021. Furthermore, there are approximately 3.5 million people who are already internally displaced within Afghanistan as a result of the political turmoil.
As SNP Spokesperson for Education, Ms Monaghan is pushing the UK Government to establish a scheme similar to the French PAUSE Programme as a matter of urgency. Such a scheme could act as a crucial lifeline for scholars and teachers under threat in Afghanistan.
Commenting on the current situation, Monaghan said:
“Over the past days and weeks, I have been contacted by dozens upon dozens of constituents with relatives, colleagues, and friends trapped in Afghanistan. The frenzied military withdrawal from Afghanistan has been handled appallingly by both the United States and UK Governments. The humanitarian crisis that has ensued is tragic and heartbreaking – but given the inhumanity and ruthlessness of the previous Taliban regime, it is wholly unsurprising that many Afghan civil society figures are living in very real fear for their lives.
“As Education Spokesperson, I have proposed that the UK Government establish a scheme similar to the PAUSE Programme in France. The French Government provide funding directly to Higher Education institutions to pay for the relocation, housing, medical care, and recruitment of academics who have been forced to flee their home countries.
“In September 2017, for example, PAUSE was supporting 63 exiled scientific researchers in France, nearly half of whom were women. Given the vulnerability of high-profile female scholars to Taliban persecution, such a scheme could save the lives of Afghan role models and civil society activists.
“As representatives of one of Afghanistan’s most influential international stakeholders, the UK Government has a moral responsibility to Afghanistan and Afghan people. Many civil society activists and academics placed their faith in UK military intervention – it is our responsibility not to abandon them.
“As such, I have called upon the Education Secretary to consider an academic relocation scheme alongside the Home Office. Mr Williamson appeared to be somewhat receptive to such an idea; nevertheless, I will continue to pressure UK Government Ministers on this issue.”