Scotland’s Health Secretary has accused Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab of “having pina coladas by the pool” instead of making a call to help interpreters stranded in Afghanistan.
It comes as footage from Kabul airport shows shocking scenes of desperation as people try to flee the new Taliban rulers.
Mr Raab has come under pressure this week after it emerged he was on holiday while Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he still has confidence in the minister.
On August 13, two days before the capital was seized, Mr Raab was told by officials to make a call to Afghan foreign minister Hanif Amtar about repatriating interpreters who helped allied forces during the war, but the task was delegated to junior minister Lord Goldsmith.
It has since emerged the call was never made.
Speaking at a rally in Glasgow, Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf took aim at Mr Raab and the UK Government.
“In amongst all these big numbers, in amongst the trillions and the billions and the millions and the hundreds of thousands, not one single apology from the UK Government,” he said.
“Not one single syllable of regret by any UK Government.
“Not one single ounce of compassion from the UK Government even now at the most desperate time of need for our Afghan brothers and sisters.
“Shame on each and every one of those political leaders who have abandoned the Afghan people.”
He added: “All the while we have a Foreign Secretary who is more occupied with having pina coladas by the pool as opposed to picking up the phone to help Afghan interpreters who helped our soldiers there in Afghanistan.
“Shame on each and every one of them.”
The Health Secretary described himself as “apoplectic” about the situation in Afghanistan, but added: “As angry as I may be, and I say that on this typically Scottish day as the rain pours down and I see dozens of people, dozens of Glaswegians from all colours and races, religions, non-religions, standing here today in solidarity with the Afghan people, and I am reminded that there is good in the world.”
This week, the Prime Minister pledged to take in 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, with up to 5,000 to be allowed into the UK in the first year.
But Mr Yousaf attacked the scheme and the UK Government, saying: “If you’re looking for sanctuary, then Scotland can be your home.
“If you’re looking for a place for refuge, then Scotland can be your home.
“I call on the UK Government to show some basic humanity.
“To simply say we will allow 5,000 Afghans – 20,000 over a number of years – is pathetic.
“Go further and go quicker, and I promise you our Scottish cities, our Scottish islands, our Scottish towns, our Scottish villages, they will welcome Afghans here as we have done for many years before with our Afghan community.”
The scene at Kabul airport several hours ago per source from an NGO who is trying to get people out. Main problem is that it’s impossible to pass the gates and get to the planes even if you are on an evacuees list pic.twitter.com/b3bZn5B34Z— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 21, 2021
“This is the worst day by far.”@ramsaysky says the situation at Kabul’s airport is “utterly horrendous”, and that ‘hardened soldiers’ told him its the “worst thing they have ever seen in their entire career” pic.twitter.com/dQwo47HMiQ— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 21, 2021
John Kirby was just asked if there are terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda are operating outside the gates at the Kabul airport— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) August 21, 2021
His response: “We’re not going to get into specific details about the threat environment” pic.twitter.com/3KFa9fzMZo
Heartbreaking footage shows the desperation at Kabul airport following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan’s capital city. Afghan parents can be seen hoisting their children, some visibly still babies, into the hands of U.S. soldiers on the other side of a security wall. pic.twitter.com/kMvrBp97XC— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 21, 2021
The Foreign Secretary is under renewed pressure after new claims emerged accusing him of failing to engage with foreign counterparts on the Afghanistan situation until the Taliban had reached Kabul.
Dominic Raab has faced calls to resign in recent days over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed Mr Raab on Friday, but that was before claims surfaced in the Daily Mail suggesting Mr Raab did not pick up the phone to other foreign ministers until Sunday, the day the Afghan capital fell to insurgents, as he was on holiday.
The Times reported that witnesses saw the Cabinet minister swimming and using a paddleboard on the last day of his break, which was spent at a beach at a five-star hotel on the Greek island of Crete.
Mr Raab was already in the firing line after it emerged he delegated a call about repatriating Afghan interpreters, while away on August 13, to a junior minister, a decision that resulted in the phone conversation with the Afghan foreign minister not taking place and possibly delaying taking them to safety.
The Foreign Secretary returned to the UK on Monday to begin dealing with the unfolding debacle in person.
Asked about the latest allegations, the Foreign Office highlighted Mr Raab’s statement issued on Friday – comments made before the claims emerged.
Mr Raab earlier this week insisted he had been “talking to foreign counterparts” while out of the country, as well as taking part in emergency Government Cobra meetings remotely and dealing with his team in London on an “hour-by-hour basis”.
Attempts to repatriate British nationals and Afghans who supported UK efforts in the country are continuing against the clock as the situation at Kabul airport appeared to worsen.
The US embassy in Afghanistan is recommending that US citizens avoid travelling to the airfield “because of potential security threats outside the gates”, with reports of violent scenes and overcrowding at the main entrance and at Taliban checkpoints.
Sky News said they had spoken to British troops at the airport who had served in Afghanistan previously, and who said the queues, crushing and desperation of people to get out of the country were the worst scenes they had witnessed during their service.
Time is running out to repatriate people to the UK ahead of US President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw most remaining US troops.
On Friday he did not commit to extending it, in a move that is likely to mean British troops must return home at the same time, as the airport cannot be held without US enforcement.
Reports have suggested the last evacuation flight could be as soon as Tuesday, in order to give British troops enough time to leave safely.
The Prime Minister said 1,000 people had been brought to the UK on both Thursday and Friday, with most of them UK nationals or those who had assisted British efforts in Afghanistan.
Despite claims that the situation in the country is improving, a former Royal Marine-turned charity director in Afghanistan said he cannot get to Kabul airport without putting his life at risk.
Paul Farthing, known as “Pen”, has been trying to get all of his 25 staff from animal welfare charity Nowzad, their families and more than 100 dogs and cats out of the country as the Taliban complete their takeover.
As the chaos at Kabul airport shows no sign of letting up, Mr Farthing said he feels “completely numb at the incompetence” of the Government’s efforts so far.
Dominic Dyer, who has been campaigning for Mr Farthing, told the PA news agency, however, that progress had been made in acquiring visas for all 68 people in his entourage, but said the “main obstacle” is still “getting through the airport” where thousands of people are scrambling to escape.
Meanwhile, a head teacher in Nottingham said two of her pupils are expected home from Afghanistan in the “next couple of days” after a terrifying ordeal.
According to the Nottingham Post, Nargas Ziahe flew out to Afghanistan more than six weeks ago following the death of an uncle, but became trapped in Parwan province with her brother Omar, five, and sister Asma, nine, following the lightning Taliban advance.
Amanda Dawson, head of Mellers Primary School which Omar and Asma attend, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “They are safe, they are in the airport and, unless the airport falls of course, they are safe and we are expecting them to be home in the next couple of days.”
With difficult scenes still unfolding, a former chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has called for its current membership to investigate whether an “intelligence failure” led to the chaotic withdrawal of allied forces.
Dominic Grieve, a former Conservative MP and attorney general, told Sky News: “I think if they had known this was going to happen, would the US withdrawal have proceeded in the way it did?
“It must be an intelligence failure that one should end up with thousands of people crowding into an airport seeking to leave a country when it has been triggered by military decisions by the United States as to how it was going to conduct its withdrawal.”
Related: Greece builds 40km fence keep out asylum seekers fleeing the Taliban
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