William Eichler 08 September 2021

Government called on to help councils resettle Afghan refugees

Government called on to help councils resettle Afghan refugees image

A number of Afghan refugees have been placed in council areas without the local authorities being informed or given the necessary support, a refugee charity has warned.

The Refugee Council is calling on the Government to do more to support refugees fleeing the Taliban.

There are currently 8,000 Afghans, more than half of whom are children, who have come here as part of the evacuation programme for those who worked with the British military and Government during the occupation of Afghanistan.

There are 3,000 Afghans who arrived prior to the evacuation effort awaiting a decision on their claim for refugee protection. The Government has also committed to bringing another 5,000 to the UK this year as part of a new resettlement scheme.

The Refugee Council, which works with many of those who have fled Afghanistan, recognises the Government is working at speed but is concerned that newly evacuated refugees are not always getting the support they need.

Some councils and public health agencies were not informed by the Government that Afghan families had been placed in their area and have not put support in place for them, the charity warned.

In some places, local charities and the voluntary sector have stepped in to ensure essentials and medicines are given to the families but this has been variable.

The charity is calling for a comprehensive package of integration support for all families in hotels and temporary accommodation, including access to health and mental health services, education, information and advice, assistance with opening a bank account, accessing benefits and support in getting to know their local community. All families who have had to wait for a cash allowance must have it backdated.

In the longer term, according to the charity, the new Afghan Citizens Resettlement programme needs to be implemented quickly, with extra financial support provided for councils to enable them to support families to successfully settle in local communities.

‘The Government has worked hard to respond to this unprecedented situation, but it is alarming traumatised families and children have been left without basics, such as sanitary products and medicine, and with little information about what is happening to them. It is vital that interim accommodation is safe and appropriate, to help them recover and rebuild their lives,’ said Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council.

‘The best place for these families is in family homes, embedded in communities, and this outcome must be achieved as soon as possible.

‘Too many refugees and people seeking asylum are forced to live under conditions that damage their health and wellbeing, including being forced to live on less than £5 day, as part of the Government’s hostile environment. All refugees must be treated with dignity and given a warm welcome rather than a cold reception.

‘Quick decisions need to be made for the more than 3,000 Afghans in the asylum system. We continue to call on the Government to re-think its harsh, unfair and ineffective Borders Bill and give those fleeing oppressors, such as the Taliban, a fair hearing on British soil regardless of how someone reaches our shores.’

A Home Office spokesperson said: 'Due to the unprecedented demand, we have had to use temporary accommodation such as hotels. While in hotels all families are given full board meals and any essential basic items they need. We will be issuing cash cards to all those staying in temporary hotel accommodation and are ensuring emergency cash is available to those who need it in the interim.

'So far over 100 councils have agreed to house Afghans and we are working with them to provide long term housing and support. We have already committed £200m to meet the cost of the first year of the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, which aims to welcome up to 20,000 Afghans and 5,000 in the first year.'

Image: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com.

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