Council poised to accept refugees

Two family sized homes in Epping Forest could be used to house Afghan refugees fleeing from the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Councillor Holly Whitbread, Epping Forest District Council’s portfolio holder for housing, said she is putting forward a report which would see it offer two family sized homes to Locally Employed Staff (LES) who worked alongside British troops in Afghanistan.

The Government says it will resettle 5,000 refugees nationwide by the end of 2021 and 20,000 over five years.

Cllr Whitbread (Con, Epping Lindsey and Thornwood Common) said: “As the situation evolved in Afghanistan, we looked on with shock and dismay.

“The UK’s Military Covenant provides that we take care of the men and women of the armed forces who place themselves in harm’s way for our protection.

“It is clear that the moral obligation extends to the Afghan people who supported and worked with the British Army in Afghanistan and are now in real fear for their lives.

“Our contribution is modest. However, by working as part of the national programme with all councils contributing according to their ability, our combined effort can make a significant difference.

“Many of the people working for the British Army and associated agencies in Afghanistan are good English language speakers, although members of their families may not be. Many will have experienced trauma and loss.

“All will receive support as they seek to rebuild their lives with the aid of the resettlement programme.”

The Taliban re-captured Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul on August 15, causing the collapse of the western-backed government after twenty years.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres earlier warned “hundreds of thousands” of people are fleeing the situation in Afghanistan because of “serious human rights violations”.

Epping Forest District Council is the latest Essex council to express its support for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

Around 80 Afghan interpreters and their families arrived in Colchester and Chelmsford last week.

Thurrock council also wrote to the Home Office offering to take part in the resettlement programme.

Basildon, Braintree and Rochford councils say they are currently identifying suitable housing.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter