London to welcome Afghan refugees but questions over details remain

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Thousands are seeking to flee Afghanistan (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD) (PA Media)
Thousands are seeking to flee Afghanistan (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD) (PA Media)

Several London boroughs have told the government they want to support those fleeing the brutal Taliban regime in Afghanistan and take in refugees.

Richmond, Camden, Ealing, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kingston, Lambeth, Islington and Lewisham are among those to have offered to house Afghan refugees.

It came as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said London “stands ready to help Afghan refugees” as the UK set out plans to offer sanctuary to 20,000 Afghans fleeing violence.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said: “The government must act quickly to ensure the safe and legal passage for those fleeing the Taliban and we stand ready in Camden to welcome refugees seeking safety.

“Camden has a long and proud history of helping refugees, often stepping in where government has failed to take action.

“We will welcome families into our borough and give them the support and help they need to rebuild their lives.”

Richmond Council leader Gareth Roberts said: “This council has always done everything in its power to welcome refugees to Richmond upon Thames, support their settlement in the UK and enable their integration into local communities, most recently with the settlement of Syrian families between 2016-19.

“Settlement of refugees in appropriate communities with appropriate support is complex and is rightly being coordinated at a national level.

“We are currently awaiting guidance from the Government in terms of refugees arriving from Afghanistan and will support that scheme once details are finalised.”

London Councils provided briefing about the government’s new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, modelled on a similar scheme mobilised to house Syrian refugees in the UK.

The government has confirmed plans to resettle 5,000 Afghan nationals who are “at risk due to the current crisis” in its first year.

Priority will be given to women and girls as well as religious and other minorities.

However, in the briefing notes seen by The Standard, London Councils told its local authorities “details of the scheme are still to be confirmed” and there are several outstanding questions to be clarified.

Among the questions, it is seeking clarity on is whether arrivals will be granted permanent leave to remain and the right to work.

Also it looks at claim benefits as well as how far in advance councils will know about family sizes and extra support needed.

It also has asked the government to provide information regarding a timeline for arrivals over the five years.

Sadiq Khan previously said: “We must do all we can to support the Afghan people during this terrible time and I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to resettle up to 20,000 Afghans.

“Our city has a proud history of providing refuge to those seeking sanctuary and we again stand ready to help.

“I urge Ministers to now step forward and give boroughs the financial support they need to resettle Afghan families and help them to establish a long-term future in our open and welcoming city.”

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