Essex prepares for Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban

Essex districts have said they will accept Afghan families fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Thurrock Council has written to the Home Office offering to take part in the resettlement programme, while Basildon and Rochford councils are identifying suitable housing.

Around 80 Afghan interpreters and their families have already arrived in Colchester and Chelmsford.

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

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We are working with the Home Office and partner councils in Essex to support a number of former Afghan interpreters resettling in the UK.

“Alongside our partners our aim is to enable and support these people and their families to access the services they need to help them integrate into the local community.

“These individuals have risked their lives helping to support the efforts of our forces in Afghanistan and we are pleased to help them start to rebuild their lives in the UK.”

Thurrock Council says it has already written to the Government asking to accept more refugees.

A spokesperson said: “Thurrock Council has written to Her Majesty’s Government offering to take part in the Afghan Interpreter Resettlement program and we will continue to work with the Government to support any resettlement scheme that may come about following the situation in Afghanistan.”

Chelmsford City Council says it and Colchester have already accepted around 80 people.

Councillor Stephen Robinson, Leader of Chelmsford City Council, said, “The Home Office are relocating a number of Afghan interpreters and their families to Chelmsford and Colchester. Supporting them will be a coordinated effort led by the Home Office.

“These are people who have risked their lives in working with British forces and we welcome them with open arms after all that they have been through. We are advising the Home Office of private rented sector landlords who may be able to house them permanently.

“We are also keen to make links with the local community and are grateful to kind Chelmsford residents and groups who have offered help. Essex County Council is helping them register with schools.”

Basildon Council and Rochford District Council said they supported efforts by the county council and are in the process of identifying suitable housing.

A Basildon Council spokesperson said: “The processing of refugees in the borough is managed by Essex County Council and supported by Basildon Council. Essex CC is currently identifying properties in the borough, and we will then inspect them to ensure the properties are up to a suitable standard.

“We will continue to work with Essex CC to provide the necessary support in these challenging circumstances.”

A Rochford District Council spokesperson said: “Rochford District Council is already supporting efforts to provide a coordinated approach across Essex, as part of an ECC wide approach.

“ECC through their refugee resettlement programme manager is leading on liaising with government, providing support and working with housing authorities to offer accommodation.”

The Taliban re-captured Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul on Sunday, 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.

Meanwhile, stories of terror continue to circulate, especially among women who fear the return of the Taliban and their reign.

Castle Point Borough Council refused to comment.

Brentwood Borough Council, Epping Forest District Council and Maldon District Council were all approached but had not responded at time of writing.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter