3 min read
Priti Patel is to write to councils across England to ask if they can take in Afghan families fleeing the country after its fall to the Taliban.
The joint letter from the Home Secretary and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick comes after 107 local authorities – around one quarter of all English councils – stepped forward to offer help to families trying to get to the UK.
The direct call is designed to get more to consider whether they can offer accomodation for those on the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme for those who worked for the British, typically as translators and interpreters, or the resettlement programme announced on Tuesday.
Hotels for those seeking asylum are also being readied by the Home Office as people begin to arrive in the UK, and who will need temporary accommodation before councils can find them long-term homes.
All of those who come to Afghanistan will go into quarantine on their arrival as it is a red-list country and government sources suggested today that are no concerns about the current capacity of hotel rooms for people to stay in.
In the last 24 hours PoliticsHome spoke to local authorities across the country that have already offered to take people in.
In Gateshead in the North East of England the council has already taken families from Afghanistan in the past month and said “going forwards they will support more people.”
In Liverpool, metro mayor for the city region, Labour’s Steve Rotherham, said refugees would be welcome.
In Middlesbrough, mayor Andy Preston said the region would support people and abandoning Afghans is not an option.
The independent politician said: “I don’t care where you come from – if you need help and you are willing to contribute to Middlesbrough then we will help you.
“This is especially true when it comes to Afghan people who have put their lives on the line by supporting British armed forces – these friends and allies of Britain are in mortal danger and abandoning them is not an option.”
In Birmingham, which has already taken 80 Afghan interpreters and their families through the pre-existing ARAP scheme, officials said they will welcome further refugees.
However the Labour-run city council’s John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities, said they had made it clear to central government that more support was needed for councils.
He said: “Refugees are vulnerable people in need of support and the government must help the communities, towns and cities that welcome those fleeing war and persecution across the world.”
In Scotland, Glasgow has already provided homes for 62 people who left Afghanistan under the scheme for people who worked with the British armed forces.
But like Birmingham, the city council is asking for more support from the UK government.
“The UK Government has to step up to the plate. They must mobilise an Afghan programme with funding for local authorities and third sector organisations to support, similar to that put in place for fleeing Syrians, and do so immediately,” said councillor Jen Layden, Glasgow’s Convener for Equalities and Human Rights,
In other parts of the country arrangements to house people are underway, with two hotels in Huddersfield run by organisation Cedar Court Hotels Yorkshire preparing to take families after offering support to the Home Office, according to ExaminerLive.
Kent Online reported that the Best Western hotel chain had supplied accommodation at its Abbots Barton Hotel in Canterbury.
The Home Office has said that funding will be available to enable local authorities, schools and health services to provide vulnerable refugees with a safe environment and the chance to rebuild their lives. There will also be an exceptional cases fund to assist the most vulnerable refugees.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick Tweeted that more councils are stepping up to offer help every hour, but they are particularly looking for councils that have family-sized homes.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe