Councils to discuss housing resettling Afghan families amid unfolding crisis

A plane lands at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshsire, carrying British nationals and Afghans from Kabal i

A plane lands at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshsire, carrying British nationals and Afghans from Kabal in Afghanistan. Picture date: Tuesday August 17, 2021. - Credit: PA

In light of the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan, the Comet has approached councils in our area to ask if they will be providing support to displaced, innocent civilians.

The government announced on Tuesday (August 17) that the UK will welcome 20,000 refugees from the now Taliban-controlled country, housing 5,000 this year.

PICTURE BLURRED AT SOURCE Ministry of Defence handout photo of a civilian charter flight arriving at

Civilian charter flight arriving at a Midlands airport from Kabul on Wednesday - Credit: PA

Priority will be given to women and girls, as well as religious and other minorities, who are most at risk of human rights abuses by the Taliban.

North Hertfordshire District Council has pledged to aid those seeking refuge in the UK as part of the scheme, but is yet to detail how it will contribute to the national effort.

In a statement, Cllr Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg, leader of NHDC, said: "We know many are keen to help support those who’ve aided us in Afghanistan as they arrive in the U.K. the families arriving are doing so under visa arrangements and are being supported by the Foreign Office and local services.

"The British Red Cross is coordinating help with donations, and has said it’s been overwhelmed by the generosity of the public. But it’s also receiving more physical donations than it’s able to work with.

"It’s therefore asked that those who wish to donate and provide support please do so via cash donations to the charity which it may then put to use meeting the specific needs of those who arrive."

NHDC is speaking with local partners and charities to ensure we can play our part and help those in need. The situation is fluid and we will work with government and our colleagues across Hertfordshire.
As things change I will keep you updated. I am writing to our MPs to begin conversations around our wider housing crisis to try and resolve the issues we all face.

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Stevenage Borough Council is expected to make a statement at the start of next week detailing its stance and how it will join the national effort, with numerous meetings taking place to iron out the finer details.

Cllr Richard Wenham, leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Our dedicated teams acted quickly to welcome and home our first families on August 9. We are supporting these families to settle into their new homes and access education and employment.

"Working within government arrangements, we will continue to play our part in supporting the national effort to help those affected by the unfolding crisis.”

In Parliament yesterday - which was recalled for only the second time since 2013 - MPs gathered to debate the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, with Conservative MPs describing the UK and West's withdrawal from the country "catastrophic".

Ahead of his trip to Westminster, Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami said: “In recent years, British diplomats and non-combat forces have worked extremely hard as part of a multinational effort to build institutional capacity in Afghanistan’s government and security forces.

"There was hope that when we did eventually leave Afghanistan, we would leave behind a functional, safe nation with security for their citizens independent of foreign forces.

"The accelerated advance of the Taliban across the country and into Kabul has extinguished this hope."

North East Bedfordshire MP Richard Fuller - who was unable to attend the debate - said on Tuesday: “Two decades of western support to create an alternative to a Taliban controlled Afghanistan have come to nothing.

He added: “Our focus now has to be on extracting British nationals and those who assisted British forces during the last 20 years.

"With a population of 40 million Afghans, we must do all that we can to persuade the Taliban to respect basic human rights and the rights of women in Afghanistan."

Leader of Hertfordshire County Council Richard Roberts said: “Hertfordshire is a diverse and inclusive county and will do all we can to help those fleeing oppression and persecution find sanctuary, settle into their new communities, and overcome the trauma they have faced.

“We are working closely with central government, as well as our district and borough councils and voluntary organisations to ensure we have the necessary resources and support available to meet the needs of those arriving in the county.

“Our heartfelt thoughts go out to all those in the armed forces community affected by the conflict and the unfolding situation, as well as the Afghans who did so much to support our military and civilian endeavours.

"Support for our veteran community is readily available through the Veterans’ Gateway, and I would urge anyone who needs it to reach out.”