05 Oct 2022

MP Eastwood rails against UK Foreign Office after Derry man's sister is abducted in Afghanistan

Colum Eastwood

Colum Eastwood says the UK Foreign Office must step up their efforts to help Derry resident Muhammad Kharotai whose 19-year-old sister, Sama, has been abducted in Afghanistan.

Foyle MP, Colum Eastwood, has accused the British Foreign Office of turning a deaf ear to the plight of Derry resident Muhammad Kharotai.

The SDLP leader was speaking after hearing of the abduction of Muhammad's sister Sama in Afghanistan.

Mr Kharotai has been living in Derry since 2011 after the Taliban's murder of his father – a government official – prompted him to flee his homeland.

However, other members of his family were unable to get out and following the recent takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, they have been living in a tent inside a refugee camp where 19-year-old Sama was subsequently abducted.

Mr Eastwood has made a plea to the British Government to step up their efforts and help the Kharotai family but to no avail.

He said: “We've been speaking to the British Government's Foreign Secretary's office, the Home Secretary's office, the Defence Secretary's office for I think almost two weeks now and those calls have fallen on deaf ears.

“I'm hearing the same story from MPs across the board and it's just devastating. They should have known this was coming. They were not prepared at all and women like Muhammad's family have been left in a dangerous and difficult position.

“But it's if they didn't know this was coming. I don't understand how given they had a deal done with the Taliban 18 months ago, how they were not preparing to get vulnerable people out long before now.

“We provided phone numbers and everything to the Foreign Office and nothing was done. It was very difficult two weeks ago, it was very difficult a week ago. It seems even more difficult today because the fact is they have left these people on their own.

“We can debate the rights and wrongs of what happened in Afghanistan 20 years ago – I have a very strong view on that. But the British and American governments have left those people after invading and have left those people at the mercy of the Taliban and now we're seeing ISIS there as well. It is an impossible position.

“Muhammad's family have been living in a tent in Kabul, his four sisters and his mother. I just can't imagine what Muhammad is going through today.

“I know that there are many cases like this and many emails haven't even been responded to by the Foreign Office.

“So if the Foreign Office are telling us they are doing everything they can, I just don't believe them, frankly. They haven't been doing what they should have been doing over the past number of weeks.

“They were not prepared. They did not have the resources in place. They were not ready for what was clearly coming and they have left those people in harm's way.”

In response, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “Britain and our international partners are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan.

“We have been clear that the Taliban must allow safe passage for those who want to leave.”

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