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UK Vets Speak Up For Mayhew's Abandoned Staff

As animal welfare charity Mayhew continues to sit on its hands regarding the fate of twenty former employees and their families facing persecution and death at the hands of the Taliban, three prominent British veterinary groups have issued a statement urging their government to open its doors to Mayhew's abandoned staff.

In a letter dated October 14, the British Veterinary Association, British Veterinary Nursing Association, and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons released their third joint plea to a British Prime Minister (this to Liz Truss, the previous two to Boris Johnson), requesting "urgent government support for the resettlement of an at-risk group of Afghan veterinary surgeons and support staff, and their families, in the UK."

In the letter, the Presidents of the three veterinary organizations "stressed their concerns for the welfare of the Operation Magic Carpet group should they be deported back to Afghanistan, and called on Prime Minister Liz Truss to take urgent action to ensure their safe resettlement in the UK."

The statement from the BVA, BVNA, and RCVS is welcome show of support amid an increasingly unfathomable display of apathy from the principals involved in Operation Magic Carpet, as well as the media at large.

I've already written about the shameful silence from Operation Magic Carpet's braintrust, British animal rights activist Dominic Dyer, and Swindon-based veterinarian Tanya Crawley, who in a brief Zoom call this past August informed the dozens of evacuees they'd smuggled illegally into Pakistan that they were abandoning their efforts to assist the group, and that every family would henceforth be on their own.

Crawley has remained mum about her role in the operation, while Dyer--who courted fawning press coverage at the outset of Operation Magic Carpet, and who is obsessively active on social media--has not only refused to comment on the welfare of the 58 men, women, and children who trusted him with their lives, but has taken to blocking anyone on social media who dares to ask him about Operation Magic Carpet, its failure, and the implications on the lives of the people he left behind.

I've written about Mayhew's appallingly tone-deaf statement, in which they more or less washed their hands of any responsibility for the welfare of their former employees, while justifying their inactivity by suggesting that any former staffers who returned to Afghanistan might be considered for another job, if any openings were available.

(Bear in mind that many of Mayhew's former employees are women, or members of the religious/ethnic group Hazara--a people who have been subject to bloody genocide at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists for decades. Also bear in mind that Mayhew released their statement on September 30, the same day as a suicide bomber murdered dozens of young Hazara women in an attack on a school in Kabul.)

I've written about Moti Kahana, the businessman/human smuggler who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to move Mayhew's former employees from Afghanistan to Pakistan without passports, visas, or other necessary paperwork, and who last week suggested that any members of his human cargo who didn't feel safe in Pakistan should simply return to Afghanistan, where they have been singled out as targets by members of the Taliban.

And I've written about Long Island, New York's Paws Unite People, an animal shelter whose founder, Meredith Festa, finds her organization bearing the responsibility not only for the many abused and neglected animals in her care, but 58 abandoned Operation Magic Carpet evacuees, as well as 170 former veterinarians and their families from the Kabul Small Animal Rescue.

According to Festa, Dominic Dyer and Tanya Crawley's decision to move the Operation Magic Carpet refugees into Pakistan illegally has rendered them unable to leave Pakistan to seek asylum elsewhere, or even work to feed and house themselves. Festa estimates it will cost approximately $175,000 USD to obtain proper passports and paperwork for the group.

While the statement released by the British veterinary organizations does chart a possible path forward for the Magic Carpet group, it's unlikely that this third letter will have much more of an effect than the first two, if the past is any precedent.

The ongoing situation facing the veterinary surgeons and their families who fled Afghanistan as part of Operation Magic Carpet is heart-breaking," British Veterinary Association President Malcolm Morley said. "We have repeatedly put pressure on MPs and the Government to find ways to create safe passage to the UK for them.

"Regrettably, despite generous offers of jobs, training and financial support from across the UK veterinary profession, current government immigration schemes set up for those seeking asylum from Afghanistan are failing this group of people."

Failing is the right word. No matter how many times these organizations speak up, nobody in the British government seems to hear them.

In December of 2021, the BVA, BVNA, and RCVS wrote a letter to then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

According to Royal College President Melissa Donald, the RCVS outlined "a financial support policy, in partnership with The Refugee Council, to help those who have veterinary qualifications not recognised by the RCVS, but who have refugee status and are resident in the UK, to undertake the necessary RCVS pre-registration exams.

"This includes payment of the exam fees, English-language test fees, and travel and accommodation costs for the practical exams. BVA, BVNA and other veterinary associations and societies also offer free membership of their organisations to support refugees with professional training and learning materials.

This means that there is a route for Afghan veterinary surgeons who have been resettled in the UK to become practising veterinary surgeons and contribute to animal health and welfare in this country.” [Emphasis mine.]

A month later, this January 2022 article in Vet Times reiterated the veterinary organizations' eagerness to support Afghan vets, while also garnering pledges of support from several large UK vet groups, including Linnaeus (owned by Mars,Incorporated), and IVC Evidensia.

"We will offer employment for all Afghan veterinary professionals and paraprofessionals," IVC Evidensia's David Martin told Vet Times, "supporting them through the process of gaining the necessary UK qualifications and obtaining visas for permanent residency."

The Vet Times article also pointed out the UK's desperate need for more qualified veterinarians, highlighting a workforce that has seen a 68-percent decrease in new EU registrants from 2019 to 2021.

The UK is not alone in suffering a shortage of veterinarians. In the United States, Mars Veterinary Health (who own Linnaeus) released a report entitled "Tackling the Veterinary Professional Shortage," which suggests that the US will need 41,000 new veterinarians by 2030, but will fall short of that goal by 15,000.

The Mars report found that the American veterinary workforce is only increasing by 2.6% every year. It also recommended that the current number of credentialed vet techs be doubled from the present 118,000.

There is a clear need for more qualified veterinarians and support staff in both the United Kingdom and United States. And in the UK, at least, there is vocal support from both veterinary professional organizations and the industry at large for the idea of bringing in Operation Magic Carpet's evacuees to help fill a growing void.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has presented the British government with a plan to help the former Mayhew staff acclimate to UK standards. Leading members of the industry have promised jobs. All the British government needs to do is open the door.

Why then, nearly eleven months after the first letter to Boris Johnson, has nothing been done?

Admittedly, Boris Johnson had a bad year. And Liz Truss's tumultuous reign as Prime Minister looks increasingly tenuous. But surely this is a slam dunk.

Opening the door to the Operation Magic Carpet veterinarians, support staff, and their families would not only save human lives, it would contribute to better quality of care for British animals. It's literally a win-win.

Inarguably, it would help if Mayhew lent their support to the cause. The organization's Board of Trustees boasts a number of accomplished individuals from the financial services and investment banking sectors. Surely they could bend the ear of someone in Parliament.

But Mayhew appears satisfied to leave their former employees exposed and in immediate danger.

"Mayhew has no connection whatsoever to Operation Magic Carpet," the organization's statement read, in part. "We have provided details of an advice line for Afghan refugees currently in Pakistan, and we continue to provide references for our former colleagues when requested to aid their search for employment.

"We do not have any activity or operational involvement in Pakistan. As such Mayhew is limited both financially and practically in the extent to which we can further provide assistance to this group of our former employees."

Last week, as the BVA, BVNA, and RCVS issued their third statement on behalf of Mayhew's abandoned staff, Meredith Festa and Paws Unite People were fighting desperately to raise sufficient funds to prevent the 58 OMC evacuees from being evicted from their homes and cast out onto the street.

The fundraiser, which met its goal with only hours to spare, sought to raise $15,000 to buy the group another month indoors while Festa struggles to finance a long-term plan. Its donors were largely grassroots, contributions generally small.

Mayhew, whose free reserves last year totalled £1,725,181, did not contribute. Nor did they amplify the call for help on any of their social media channels.

Dominic Dyer, as always, remained damningly silent.

The British Veterinary Association, British Veterinary Nurses Association, and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons have added their powerful voices to the chorus begging for help for the Mayhew 58.

It's still unclear, however, if anyone's truly listening.

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