The National:

IT'S been a tough year, and everybody is entitled to a break and a bit of family time, even government ministers. Why they would choose to chase the sun in Greece this summer though is curious, but that’s a conversation for another time.

However, in a time of crisis, you would reasonably expect them to be ready to work in the blink of an eye: this is an implication of having big responsibilities. So when newspapers reported on Thursday that Dominic Raab failed to call his Afghan counterpart, just as the American Secretary of State and Defence Secretary did, to request urgent assistance to airlift Afghan translators who had been involved in the British military mission as the Taliban were advancing, there was no wonder he went under intense pressure to resign. The advice from officials couldn’t have been more explicit: it was he, specifically, who needed to make the call, instead of a junior minister.

It was already a bad look that he waited until Monday to come back to the UK from his vacation, but it is hard to resist putting your face in your hands in affliction after reading he waited an entire day before calling his counterpart. Could more people living in peril have been protected had this time not been wasted?

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The UK’s Government argument consists in saying that the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan cannot be blamed on the Foreign Secretary missing a phone call. But that is not the question: did he not think that it was important enough for him to do that one job, which was to pick up the phone and call the Afghan Foreign Secretary? I hesitate between naivety, incompetence, or idleness. I don’t know which would be worse, especially since another point the Government is making is that he was actually working, participating in meetings, and making other phone calls. So why not this one?

Dominic Raab is feeling the heat today, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be worried too. If the secretary doesn’t resign after this baffling error of judgment, then surely the Prime Minister needs to take his responsibilities and replace him. But after a string of disturbing acts of negligence since he became Prime Minister, can we really expect Boris Johnson to show any more leadership?

If this is the way those who have helped the British military are treated, then I wouldn’t expect more generosity for the thousands of Afghan people who live in fear of violence and persecution from the Taliban. The same debate has been raging in France after president Emmanuel Macron’s TV address on Monday night, with his left-wing opponents condemning his view that “we need to anticipate and shield ourselves against major illegal migration influxes”.

Although they have no power whatsoever over immigration, left-wing mayors said they are willing to welcome Afghan families in their cities. This morning, the socialist mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, said that the biggest tragedy was that all of this could have been anticipated: it isn’t as if the Taliban’s rapid advance happened overnight.

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Of course, we owe assistance to those who worked with the French military mission in Afghanistan until the withdrawal of troops seven years ago, but thousands more are under threat. Instead of hiding behind “an initiative to build without delay a robust, coordinated and united response to fight against illegal immigration” that Macron wants to see, Aubry said, what should be expected of the European Union instead was coordination to welcome Afghan people with dignity and generosity, because we can. After all, she argued, these people are victims, falling in the framework of the Geneva Convention that we have signed.

There are some similarities with the situation in which the Scottish government, which doesn’t have powers over immigration, finds itself: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon too said that Scotland was standing ready to play its part in welcoming Afghan refugees. This was the normal and decent thing to say, and I hope that if or when Scotland becomes independent, the same spirit of generosity will remain.

Nevertheless, I can’t forget that French socialists are now very critical of the country’s approach to immigration and asylum, but failed to actually implement more welcoming policies when they were in power between 2012 and 2017.