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St Albans Council to offer more support to resettle Afghan citizens

Credit: ErikaWittlieb on Pixabay.

Further assistance will be given to Afghan refugees by St Albans City and District Council to help them settle within the UK.

A motion outlining the extra support was unanimously agreed at a recent full council meeting.

The local authority has so far offered to find homes for three families under the government’s resettlement scheme.

The motion has now committed St Albans Council to “match or exceed” its effort with Syrian refugees – where 50 people were resettled.

Much of the funding will come from government grants, however the motion allows for some staffing cost to come from a council reserve fund if required.

In August, the UK evacuated 15,000 people from Kabul after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.

The agreed motion by St Albans District Council will assist those fleeing the country including Afghan citizens who helped the British Army, women and girls.

This support also extends to members of ethnic or religious minority groups, along with LGBT+ individuals – “most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban”.

In addition, the council will continue to work with other agencies to find “appropriate accommodation, health provision, education, jobs and support” for families.

Following the meeting Councillor Chris White, Leader and Chair of the Policy Committee, said: “It is very pleasing that Councillors from all party groupings joined together to support our humanitarian effort to help Afghan refugees.

“The unanimous passing of the motion shows that our determination to do our best for the Afghan refugees is shared by the whole Council. I’m sure it is shared by our residents, too.

“We have the recent experience of resettling 50 Syrian refugee families and will continue to do so over the next two years.

“This means we are aware of the challenges involved with resettling the Afghan refugees and are prepared for them.

“These include finding suitable private-rented accommodation in a District of high demand and high prices as well as ensuring access to education and other essential services.

“The motion recognises that the cost of resettlement is a major issue, particularly as our overall budget is under intense pressure following the pandemic.

“We have been looking for the government to provide funding over several years, not just for the short term, and the funding has now been extended to three years.”

Afghan nationals arriving in the UK will be supported by local councils under two separate schemes.

The pre-existing Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), offers priority relocation to current or former local staff employed by Her Majesty’s Government (HMG), whose lives are considered to be in danger.

The new Afghan citizens resettlement scheme (ACRS) announced by the Prime Minister in August, is set to welcome up to 20,000 people to the UK when it opens – with 5,000 arriving in the first year.

Local authorities will be provided with funding from central government to support the education, English language and health provision of any Afghan citizens or families they rehouse.

In South West Hertfordshire, both Dacorum Borough Council and Three Rivers District Council have resettled families under the ARAP scheme.

A report on the progress with Afghan refugee help in St Albans will be made to a meeting of the Housing and Inclusion Committee in February.

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