Donations have flooded in to help Afghan refugees who have been brought to the UK after they were evacuated from Kabul.
Former British Army Major Andrew Fox, who made an appeal for everyday items to be donated to the Royal Academy Sandhurst to ease the burden on the refugees following their harrowing escape from the Taliban, said six full pallets of donations had been made in the last week alone. He said:
“We’re actually drawing the campaign to a close this week as it was to cover the urgent needs of the quarantine period. That is now at an end, so we are switching to asking people to donate to their local Red cross – more details to follow.”
The appeal was part of a major effort up and down the UK by veterans who felt a sense of responsibility to help refugees from Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Western troops from the country, which has since fallen back into the hands of the Taliban.
Mr Fox and other veterans’ groups launched campaigns to help those who were evacuated after reports emerged of the ordeal that refugees had faced in their bid to escape Kabul over fears for the safety and way of life under Taliban rule.
Former Armed Forces personnel across the UK went into action to collect donations in an effort to make the transition to life in the UK a little more welcoming for the Afghan refugees, many of whom were forced to flee with very few personal belongings – some with only one suitcase.
The collections organised by Mr Fox coincided with other efforts by a group of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq who collected donations to take to Afghan refugees as they arrived in Greater Manchester.
Veterans with the Spearhead Foundation, founded by former British soldier Craig Monaghan, have also been collecting a raft of supplies for the refugees.
The UK Government has pledged to welcome up to 20,000 Afghan refugees, with as many as 5,000 in the first year, who have been forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban.
Retired paratrooper Mr Fox, speaking earlier to Forces News about his appeal, said he wanted to look at ways of supporting those who did make it out of Afghanistan after the final flight left the country.
The appeal included a call for donations of everything from USB cables and adapter plugs to baby clothes and children’s clothing to adult clothes for men and women.
Speaking earlier to Forces News as the campaign was ongoing, Mr Fox, now a civilian instructor on the academic side at Sandhurst, said:
“What we are doing is co-ordinating with local authorities, getting people to send stuff from a list that they provide, which tells us what the refugees need right now, send that the address at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, then the local authorities go into the academy and collect what they need and then take it to the refugee hotels where they distribute it to those who need it.”
Mr Fox, speaking on who was involved in the campaign, said the staff quartermaster at Sandhurst was kind enough to allow the team to store and collate the donations in his department, and the local authorities at Heathrow and Gatwick have then been able to distribute the donations to refugees in quarantine hotels.
Asked what has happened to the people flown in from Afghanistan, Mr Fox said:
“If you think about the condition they were in when they left Kabul, most of them had been queueing for 48/72 hours, in the sun, some of them having to go through the sewage drains that you saw footage of on the news, and then they’ve had to go through flights, maybe to Doha, maybe to Bahrain, and then they’ve had to take another flight to land in the UK, at which point they’ve been moved to a quarantine hotel, where they are for ten days.
“After that, the local authorities have tried to find them local housing, but we’ve got a shortage of that in the UK, so these people are facing a quite long stay, potentially, in some of the quarantine hotels that they are put in.”
Mr Fox, speaking about why he felt it was important to help the refugees, added:
“I think we feel a sense of responsibility.
"I don’t think anyone can say that the Afghan campaign ended in an uproarious success and I don’t that we should let the brilliant achievements of our troops over the last couple of weeks to detract from the fact that this is still a defeat and a failure and I think people feel that quite strongly.
“This is a way to make a difference. You know, we made promises to the Afghan people, that we haven’t kept in this country, ultimately, we promised we’d get rid of the Taliban, we promised women’s education, we promised a degree of freedom and all that is now gone because the Taliban are back in charge.
“So if we can help those people who escaped, then at least that goes some way to repaying a little bit of our debt to these people.”