Councillor insists county "will not turn its back" on Afghan refugees

At least six families are due to be rehomed in Northumberland as part of the government's efforts to settle Afghan refugees, with bosses promising the county is 'open', despite concerns about housing stock.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 3:46 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 3:48 pm
A Border Force worker processes refugees from Afghanistan last week. Northumberland is looking to welcome at least six families.

Local authorities across the North East have all promised to do their bit to provide a safer future for those fleeing the new Taliban regime.

Northumberland is set to host at least six families under the government’s resettlement schemes.

“I’ve made it quite clear that the county is open for, for those people that are suffering and have suffered enormously, and that remains our position,” said council leader Glen Sanderson.

“We are currently looking at three different schemes that will allow us to take in Afghan refugees.

“We must open up our county and share the delights that we have in Northumberland with those people who really need our help and that will remain our position.”

About 1,000 Afghans who previously worked with the British armed forces or other government officials have already been resettled in the UK since 2013 under the previous Ex-Gratia Policy.

In April, this was replaced by the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), offering permanent residency.

On top of this, the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme is set to allow a further 20,000 Afghans to settle in the UK, with a focus on women and girls, as well as religious and other minorities considered at risk of Taliban reprisals.

Usually, councils can claim £20,520 per head, to be paid out over five years, to rehome refugees. Ministers have also promised a further £5m for local authorities under Operation Warm Welcome £5m to ‘help meet the costs of renting properties’.

Concerns have been raised about the availability of housing stock in parts of the county, but bosses claimed they were unlikely to be given accommodation in the worst affected areas.

Cllr Colin Horncastle, cabinet member for community services, said: “I could understand some people thinking along those lines, but when you look at the horrible scenes on television, these people are actually in mortal danger.

“Yes, there is a shortage of affordable housing in this county, but our housing services are doing their level best and we will provide as much accommodation as we possibly can for the Afghans.

“We will not turn our back on them.”