Southend prepares to welcome Afghan refugees

Southend will welcome refugees from Afghanistan with open arms and have agreed to take in 27 unaccompanied children, councillors have pledged.

The borough is set to accommodate asylum seeking youngsters from the war-torn county as part of a national agreement.

Southend’s cabinet reported this week that the community was overwhelmingly supporting the council’s efforts to provide a stable life for the refugees.

Councillors agreed £122,000 funding and will take two unaccompanied asylum seeking children a month until its quota is reached.

Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “I’m really pleased that we are proposing to make this commitment and I am very heartened by the reaction from the community. I note that there is a number of letters and expressions of support that have been sent.

“I have been passed letters from the Leigh Road Baptist Church which has been particularly active in this issue. I’m looking forward to working with people to make sure we can help those vulnerable people”

The council has previously helped to resettle Syrian refugees.

Cheryl Nevin, councillor responsible for Adult Social Care and Health Integration, said: “Myself and councillor Anne Jones attended an event last weekend for refugees and I was very heartened to speak to people there and see the big amount of support coming forward from the community and very pleased also to have the opportunity to speak with a refugee who Southend has been assisting.”

Anne Jones, councillor responsible for Communities and Housing, added: “One of the last events that we attended before the pandemic was a young people’s event and we had some of our current unaccompanied asylum seeker young  people with us. They spoke so passionately of their gratitude and their desire to support this community and so we actually have people placed in this community able to help us as much as we are able to help a new group of young people arriving here.”

Carol Mulroney, councillor responsible for Environment, Culture, Tourism and Planning, also praised Leigh Road Baptist Church for its help.

She said: “This is a side to the council that is very pleasing to see that we take these things seriously, compassionately. I would like to mention the Leigh Road Baptist Church because they’ve done tremendous work right since the first days of the Syrian crisis and they continue to do that but all of the groups do come together on this are doing incredibly valuable work and it is a privilege to work with them.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter