August 18th 2021, 5:32 pm by Calon FM Newsdesk
The consequence of the invasion of Afghanistan by US, UK and other forces 20 years ago has been profound. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, including 457 UK military personnel, and many more have been maimed or displaced in the fighting.
Prior to that invasion the CIA actually funded Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan because they were fighting the Russian-backed regime there. Afghanistan has had decades of foreign intervention and has fought against them all. These groups mutated into the Taliban and we are reaping the consequences of that intervention now.
It's not surprising therefore that there are 2.6 million Afghan refugees - mainly in neighboring countries such as Pakistan.
The commitment by the UK Government to settle 5,000 refugees before the end of 2021 - about eight per constituency - is arbitrary and insufficient given the scale of the problem and the fact that UK policy has contributed to this problem.
Wrexham has a long and proud history of providing sanctuary to those fleeing persecution - from the Belgian children relocated here in the First World War to more recent conflicts. Most recently, Syrian families fleeing war have settled in the town and three of them live in my ward. Last month Wrexham Council agreed to take 10 families from Afghanistan - the most generous offer from any Welsh council.
Of course, new arrivals - particularly those who may have had terrible experiences - will take time to integrate and settle into the community but Rhosddu and Wrexham as a whole is made up of many traditions and cultures. Irish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Bangladeshi, Indian and Chinese. All have contributed in different ways - even our most iconic product Wrexham Lager was invented by two German immigrants who were pining for a decent pint!
I know some will say that we should prioritise our own homeless. It's not an either or. The pandemic has showed that we can provide a roof for all the rough sleepers because the UK Government has provided funding and there are still hundreds of empty properties in the borough that could be renovated with the right funding. They could provide decent accommodation for those on the waiting lists as well as the small numbers of Afghan families coming here.
Twenty years ago I was among those who organised a protest here in Wrexham town centre against the invasion of Afghanistan. Had the UK Government of the day listened, we could have prevented the loss of life as well as the flow of refugees. Today we have to face up to the consequences of that invasion.