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Council Leader calls on the government to do more to support Afghan refugees and says the Vale is ready to help

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, has said that the district council is ready to help refugees who will be arriving in the UK from Afghanistan, but has called on the government to act quickly and to do more to support this process by ensuring that the necessary resources are made immediately available.

This week, Afghanistan has fallen back under the control of the Taliban and thousands of people are now trying to flee to country.  The UK government has said it will work with international partners and other countries to resettle up to 20,000 Afghan refugees in the UK, with up to 5,000 eligible for refugee status in the first year.

As a local housing authority, Vale of White Horse District Council can provide assistance locally to people over the age of 18 arriving in the UK who have been granted refugee status, subject to the availability of the necessary resources in the district.   The Vale has previously supported six Syrian families to successfully resettle in the area and is also participating in UK resettlement scheme, with officers currently working to resettle a further three families in the district.

In addition, the council has already agreed to re-settle at least one family from Afghanistan under the UK’s existing Afghan Locally Employed Staff (ALES) Resettlement Scheme.  This scheme supports locally employed staff in Afghanistan, often in dangerous and challenging situations, in recognition of their commitment and bravery shown supporting UK forces since 2013.  

The council will now put further plans in place to offer support to those from Afghanistan who are now granted refugee status, following events this week.

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The situation in Afghanistan is truly awful with thousands of lives now at significant risk from the new regime. There is a terrifying uncertainty about the freedom and safety of minority communities, women and girls.  As a council and a district, we will work with local partners to put plans place to support those from Afghanistan who are granted refugee status in the UK. 

“The Government has announced that it will support up to 20,000 people from Afghanistan, but only 5,000 immediately, which to me, seems a very low number given the life and death situation the people of Afghanistan find themselves in. Our council and other local organisations have the skills and desire to support in any way we can but call on government to provide the funding required to get this scheme established as a matter of urgency. The resettlement process requires significant resources across a range of public service providers to ensure that refugees are resettled safely and can integrate successfully into their new communities. 

“This support is not just about providing immediate and appropriate shelter, which we aim to provide through offers of private accommodation.  Mental health support, education, food, medicine, and the other resources will be necessary to help people integrate into the local community.  Councils and charities are facing significant financial challenges, but we have a moral obligation to play our part in ensuring the safety of people fleeing Afghanistan.”