A message from the Council:
As you might be aware, a number of hotels within the Borough are providing bridging accommodation to Afghan refugees in the Borough before longer term accommodations is found. A number of voluntary and community organisations may already be working to mobilise support to these people, as you would expect the Council is doing the same. Currently, information is quite scarce and we will be working to improve that in the coming days in the hope of being able to provide tailored and coordinated support to people in bridging accommodation. Obviously, the number of Afghan refugees in the Borough is relatively small in comparison to the overall number but we are expecting this will change rapidly as more people are allocated bridging accommodation.
As part of this effort, we will be working with KCSC to better understand the support voluntary and community organisations will want to provide and to assist with co-ordinating specific support alongside the work of colleagues in the Council and other statutory services. It almost goes without saying that many of the people arriving in the Borough have been through an exceptionally stressful experience and to minimise any further stress it will be important that this support is well coordinated and doesn’t add to any confusion or stress that people are already under. We know that information sharing and the coordination of services will make this much easier to achieve, so if you are planning to work with the group of people in question, please do let us know so that we can stay in contact with you.
The reason behind the sudden mass movement of Afghan refugees has been caused by the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan over the summer. The people and families who have entered or will enter the UK fall into two categories:
i. Those who the UK Government has prioritised for resettlement (through its Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme), because they are or were ‘locally employed staff’ (LES) in Afghanistan before the withdrawal. These families have Leave to Remain.
ii. Those who enter the country without direct central government support, but who are nevertheless seeking refugee status because of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
Information so far suggests that 15,000 people have already arrived in the UK. ARAP households tend to be relatively large – with 5 or 6 people – which obviously has implications for accommodation needs, as well as available funding. Each family entering goes through a four-stage process: arrival at a UK port; ten-day Covid quarantine in a designated hotel; interim accommodation in a ‘bridging hotel’; permanent accommodation. The quarantine and bridging accommodation are provided and funded by the Home Office.
The Council is setting up the Afghan Refugee Support Hub as quickly as it can with very limited information. This will include specialist colleagues from a range of disciplines to make sure that people’s needs are being met, and also community engagement officers to both improve our information on the people arriving to make sure the Council can tailor its response. With a forecast to receive approximately 500 Afghan settlers, the Council is keen to work with voluntary sector agencies to provide support to Afghan Refugees.
As such, could you please share information on:
- Whether your organisation plans to provide any support to the new arrivals;
- The nature of that support;
- Anticipated duration;
- Geographic area covered by support.