'We will play our part': Black Country councils ready to take in Afghan families

Council bosses in the Black Country have pledged to help Afghan families fleeing their country after the Taliban takeover.

There have been chaotic scenes at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as people seek to leave the country
There have been chaotic scenes at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as people seek to leave the country

People have desperately tried to escape the country since the US withdrew its army this month.

Before that happened, local authorities in the UK including Black Country and Staffordshire were taking part in the Government's resettlement scheme for Afghan war veteran families.

Now, with Government plans to extend the scheme, councils say they are ready to support people from the war-torn country.

A spokesman for Wolverhampton Council said: "Wolverhampton has always played a huge role in providing refuge for those in need and we are proud of our Sanctuary City status.

"As part of the Afghan Relocation Scheme, which provides refuge for interpreters and their families, we are committed to helping the brave people who were a vital part of the British Army's operations in Afghanistan.

"In Wolverhampton we have made a commitment to welcome and accommodate 80 individuals consisting of interpreters and their families as part of the scheme.

"In light of the extremely serious recent developments in Afghanistan, it’s important we do what we can to support new national plans to resettle Afghan refugees.

"While we await details of the plans, we will continue to work alongside other councils and partners to provide support to those most in need of safety and security."

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in Kabul

The Government has been accused of not moving quickly enough after it said it would take up to 20,000 refugees, with as many as 5,000 in the first year.

However Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the plans, telling Sky News: “We have to ensure we have the support structures throughout the United Kingdom. We will be working with local councils throughout the country, the devolved governments as well.

“We are working quickly on this. We cannot accommodate 20,000 people all in one go.

“Currently we are bringing back almost 1,000 people a day. This is an enormous effort. We can’t do this on our own. We have to work together.”

But she hinted the scheme could be expanded to admit double the initial figure for the first year.

Parliament has been recalled to address the situation in Afghanistan

Councillor Adrian Andrew, deputy leader at Walsall Council, which is set to take 80 families, said: "Walsall Council is playing its part by providing accommodation and integration support for individuals that are being housed in the borough as part of the national relocation scheme to safely relocate Afghan national families.

"These families have played a vital part in supporting the British Army's operations in Afghanistan with interpretation and translation skills and we will do what we can to support them."

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, which will take 20 families, said: "The situation in Afghanistan is truly distressing and I’m glad we can play our part by taking in 20 families allocated to us by the Government as part of the national relocation programme.

"The families are war veterans who served on the front line, risking their lives to protect British troops with interpretation and translation services.

"They will have access to housing and services as part of the settlement, which is all completely government funded."

Stafford Borough Council said it would be taking two families as part of the scheme.

Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for communities and culture, said: "These interpreters and their families have put themselves at great risk in recent years to support the Army in Afghanistan and we are happy to support the resettlement of several families and welcome them to Staffordshire."

A Sandwell Council spokesman said: "We are committed to offering homes and support to 20 to 25 Afghan households.

"We accommodated one Afghan household last week and five properties are lined up for households expected to arrive in the next fortnight.

"We will also review our commitments as the situation in Afghanistan and the need for resettlement develops."

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