The Afghanistan crisis calls for human decency, not politics - Alexander Brown

Journalism is only a job, no matter how much importance we like to put on it.

We can expose bad practises, highlight inequalities or get a blue tick, but ultimately we’re all just people who clock off at the end of a day, however late.

But I’ve been struggling to switch off, the lines between my work and free time blurring into a miserable haze.

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I close my laptop with its Twitter tab and instead continue to look at it on my phone, reading and watching in horror the latest developments from Afghanistan.

Afghans wait around the Kabul International Airport as they try to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul. Picture: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Covering the crisis, even from the comfort of our Westminster office, is relentlessly depressing.

We have seen Afghans try to tie themselves to planes only to fall out of the sky, mothers throw babies over fences hoping American soldiers will take them, or people lined up against walls by armed men with machine guns.

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I watch horrible news, write horrible news, read others journalists tweets about the horrible news, make a tea, repeat.

Covering history is one thing, but feeling helpless to change it is another.

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I can’t convince Joe Biden not to withdraw the 2500 troops that would be enough to stop women becoming second class citizens, I can't make Britain take more than 5000 Afghanistan refugees a year, while others just hold on and hope to survive long enough to make it out.

But I can point out our refugee resettlement offer is derisory, a mere 20,000 in total compared to the five million places offered to Hong Kong.

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There seems to be such a thing as the right kind of immigrant. With Hong Kong the response was immediate, statements made constantly and the Chinese government called out for what they are.

The Home Office was still rejecting Afghan nationals last week.

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This is a crisis that surpasses the political bias disclaimer, these issues are moral, not political.

My family fled persecution in the early 1900s from Mogilev, where Himmler oversaw the mass murder of Jews and Lomza, which lost its entire Jewish population. How can I not have a view on welcoming migrants after that?

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I am constantly grateful not to be born into a situation where I or my family have to flee war, poverty or persecution in search of a better life.

It’s not taking a side to want the government to do whatever it can to keep more people alive, whether that’s a more sweeping resettlement scheme, or bothering to make phone calls on holiday.

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For so long this country has demonised migrants, with national newspapers publishing columns calling them cockroaches, having a sitting Prime Minister label them a “swarm” or have a referendum that lied about how many would come to Britain to win.

As a court reporter I’ve been sent to age verification hearings for Syrian migrants, only to be told no newspapers want the story when the child fleeing persecution was in fact the age they claimed.

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There is more outrage at migrants fleeing here on boats than the persecution they are running from.

This is of course all occurring while those same voices boast of their pride at a “Global Britain”.

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The crisis is shining a light on the reality we have left the Afghans with.

I can only hope it humanises those we have abandoned.

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Alexander Brown is a columnist for Scotland on Sunday and Westminster Correspondent for The Scotsman

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