OFFERED HOMES: Councils committed to helping Afghan families relocate
Staffordshire councils have reaffirmed their pledge to help Afghans who worked with British armed forces find refuge in the UK – and two families are set to be offered homes in Stafford Borough.
Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire had already offered to help up to 25 Afghan interpreters and their families relocate in the area before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul earlier this week.
Now plans to resettle thousands of vulnerable Afghans at risk of persecution are set to be speeded up by the Government.
Staffordshire County Council is working with district authorities as part of the UK Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation Scheme, which offers interpreters who served for a year or more continuously on the frontline in Helmand from May 2006 and were made redundant the opportunity to move to the UK with their families.
Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, said: “These interpreters and their families have put themselves at great risk in recent years to support the Army in Afghanistan and we are happy to support the resettlement of several families and welcome them to Staffordshire.”
Stafford Borough Council spokesman Will Conaghan said the process to relocate two families in the area was well underway and the authority was currently sourcing appropriate homes.
Lichfield District Council leader Doug Pullen Tweeted on Monday: “Back in May I offered an immediate, unequivocal yes when the request came to resettle Afghan interpreters and families in Lichfield.
“As the crisis unfolds Lichfield District Council will continue to work with Staffordshire County Council and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to make this a reality.”
Home Office grants are being provided to fund accommodation, as well as advice and assistance to help the families access employment, welfare benefits, education and health services.
Cannock Chase Council cabinet members backed the scheme at their latest meeting, held on August 5. They heard that an initial offer had been made to support one interpreter.
Council leader Olivia Lyons said: “They supported us on the frontline and assisted our armed forces. Staffordshire and this council has a duty to support those who have supported our armed forces, ensuring they are safely integrated into our society.”
South Staffordshire Council also agreed to take part in the scheme in June.
A decision notice said: “There is now a pressing need to accelerate the pace of relocations to the UK for families currently in Afghanistan who are eligible to participate.
“The Home Office are therefore seeking to relocate all those eligible as soon as possible with the first tranche arriving from the middle of June. However, the scheme has no cut-off date, and will remain open to all those who are eligible under it, whenever they decide to apply.
“Those who qualify and choose to relocate to the UK with their families are not expected to return to Afghanistan. After completing five years limited leave they can apply for permanent residence in the UK, free of charge, ensuring that they can settle here permanently and continue to build their lives and future here.
“People who are relocated under the scheme are supported for a four-month period by a local authority who will meet the family/individual at the arrival airport and take responsibility for them from arrival.
“The local authority is responsible for providing a four-month integration package which includes accommodation, a package of advice and assistance covering employment, welfare benefits, housing, health, education and utility supply, registration with GPs and local Job Centre Plus including receipt of a National Insurance Number, assistance in securing school places for school aged children (and) cash support.”
Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter
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