Britain’s councils have been urged to come forward and provide accommodation and other help for Afghans fleeing the Taliban after the government said about two-thirds of local authorities had yet to confirm their support.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) welcomed the offers received so far to help Afghans who risked their lives working alongside British armed forces and diplomats in Afghanistan and asked others to follow suit.
“We are calling on all councils who have not yet come forward with a firm offer of support to help our Afghan friends and their families as they build a new life here in safety,” a spokesperson said. Sources said a list of councils that have already come forward would not be published because the situation was fast-changing.
Councils will have access to 12 months of financial support from the Home Office for each individual resettled, and healthcare provision is also available.
Councils say, however, that while many are ready to help find suitable housing and provide dedicated support services, the government must provide sufficient funding to the new arrivals’ needs.
Affordable housing of a decent standard is in short supply in many areas and health and social care services do not always have the specialist experience to support traumatised refugees.
Two charities, Freedom from Torture and the Helen Bamber Foundation, along with some smaller organisations, provide expert support and interventions, but many areas of the UK do not have such services.
One British man who fled the Taliban as a child more than 20 years ago and is overjoyed that his Afghan wife was airlifted to safety in the UK, spoke of her experience of leaving her home country.
“She has told me it was the most traumatic and horrific experience of her life. There were many times when they were shot at, beaten by people in the airport, crushed in the crowds among men,” he said.
“They were left without food and water for hours on end and many other things she couldn’t even mention .… It’s going to be a long road to recovery in every way, physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Enver Solomon, the CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “Councils across the country need to be actively encouraged to come forward to share the allocation more evenly across areas. There are 343 local authorities so housing 10,000 evacuated Afghans in half of those would be less than 60 in each council. That should certainly be manageable.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “Councils in England, Scotland and Wales will have access to a share of an additional £5m to help them provide the necessary housing and support to Afghans who have worked for this country in Afghanistan, but who now face threats of persecution or worse.”