I ATTENDED the full council meeting of East Lothian Council on Tuesday.

At the meeting, Provost John McMillan made a statement regarding the refugee crisis in Afghanistan. East Lothian Council, he said, was in discussion with the Scottish Government about welcoming Afghan refugees.

The harrowing footage and pictures we have seen from Kabul Airport have been very hard to watch.

The withdrawal of ‘Western forces’ from the region should, however, come as no surprise.

The Trump administration agreed to an initial reduction from 13,000 to 8,600 troops by July 2020, followed by a full withdrawal by May 1, 2021, if the Taliban kept its commitments.

The Biden administration, however, said the US would not begin withdrawing until May 1 and would complete the withdrawal before September 11. On July 8, Biden specified a US withdrawal deadline of August 31.

The UK Government has known about this deadline for months, if not years, and should have been better prepared.

There was debate around the time when UK and US forces entered Afghanistan in 2001.

As the occupation continued, this debate moved from its original aim to that of ‘nation building’, bringing in democratic elections and supporting ‘civic’ Afghanistan to get back on its feet.

Four hundred and fifty seven deaths from UK forces, many from Scotland, were recorded in Afghanistan. We can’t forget their sacrifice. East Lothian played its part in the earlier Syrian refugees crisis and have settled families contributing to life in the county.

I want to conclude with the following quote from Patti Lenard: “If we lived in a just world, all nations would protect their citizens’ human rights. But that’s not our world. Refugees are just one result of injustice. Crucially, they didn’t cause their plight; rather, they are victims of profound injustice. Because their home nation cannot or will not protect even their basic human rights, they must migrate in search of protection. They are entitled to this protection, as all of us are, simply by virtue of being human.”

What is clear is that, as a county and across Scotland, we must be caring, welcoming, and compassionate to Afghan refugees – many if not all are fleeing for their lives.