STAFFORDSHIRE COUNCIL: support pledged to Afghan refugees
Staffordshire County Council, Image: LDRS
The council confirmed that arrangements are being made to welcome the families of around 20 Afghan staff who assisted British armed forces in Afghanistan, through the government’s Afghan Relocation Assistance Programme (ARAP).
The council has also written to the government, calling for further clarity on the operation of the scheme, which is managed by the Home Office.
The council says it intends to work with district and borough councillors across Staffordshire to provide the support needed.
It also said it would work with partners – including Refugee Action and Spring Housing – to ensure everything is in place for the arrival of refugees.
However, the response is not satisfactory according to local Liberal Democrats, who recently called for the council to outline a robust strategy for receiving Afghan refugees.
Responding to the most recent announcement, Stone and Stafford Lib Dem spokesperson Alec Sandiford said: “They do not seem to recognise the immediate help that Afghan refugees desperately need.”
He added: “Many local authorities across the country like Bath and Oxford, have taken swift action to ensure that refugees are welcomed and looked after.
“If other local authorities can, why not Staffordshire County Council?”
Leader of Staffordshire County Council (Con) Cllr Alan White said: “Staffordshire has a long and proud history record of helping those fleeing repression and violence, as we have demonstrated in recent years by helping vulnerable families fleeing Syria.
“We are pledging to do our bit to support Afghans who have helped British forces, or who are vulnerable and whose lives are at risk if they stay in Afghanistan.
“While we are already forging ahead with plans to accommodate people through the ARAP scheme, we have asked the government for more detail on its plans to relocate some 5,000 vulnerable people from Afghanistan in the UK.”
He explained: “We will only take those we know we can safely and readily accommodate.
“This means working closely with our district and borough councils, plus Refugee Action, Spring Housing and local charities to ensure we have everything in place for when they arrive.”
The council praised locals, who have offered to help those arriving from Afghanistan.
Cllr White said: “I would expect nothing less from the residents of our county, who have always been willing to help those in need.
“As soon as we get further details from government on this latest scheme, we will be able to see exactly what support we can provide.”
Local Liberal Democrats are calling for a more proactive approach, however.
Mr Sandiford said: “Staffordshire is an affluent area of the country, and as the council ended the financial year in profit they can, and should do more”
“Since 2014, the county council have helped a small number of refugees, 27 – but none since 2019, which compared to other local authorities is woefully short.”
“The council should lead on this issue rather than waiting for the Home Office to guide them on what to do.”
The Home Office has said it is committed to providing protection for vulnerable people fleeing Afghanistan, and that the ARAP will welcome up to 5,000 vulnerable Afghans to the UK in its first year.
Priority is being given to women, children and minorities.
Words: Richard Price, Local Democracy Reporter
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