Council pledges to take Afghan refugees

In response to the summer’s refugee crisis in Afghanistan, North Northamptonshire Council has stepped forward to support ten Afghan families in the North Northamptonshire area.

Arguably, one of the most significant events of this year was the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. After the US began the final stages of its troop withdrawal in May, the Taliban’s resurgence quickly overran the entire country, culminating with the fall of Kabul on 15 August. As well as its wide geopolitical implications, the Taliban takeover resulted in a refugee crisis. Afghan citizens who had worked with foreign governments or media organisations were no longer safe under the Taliban regime.

The delays in processing special visas for Afghan refugees over the previous months resulted in a chaotic evacuation that galvanised the public’s attention. The UK government pledged to prioritise “those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law” as well as “vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups”.

The UK committed to taking 5,000 people within the first year. It plans to take a further 20,000 in the coming years, although the scheme to resettle people is not yet open. Afghan refugees will be granted “indefinite leave to remain”, with which they can apply for citizenship after living in the UK for five years. The Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme is likely to be similar to the 2015 scheme for Syrian refugees. Under that system, the government provided support for refugees for three years. The Oundle community previously provided accommodation to refugees from Sudan, who settled here in 2017.

In September, North Northamptonshire council made a commitment to permanently house ten Afghan families. The council has also said that it will explore how it could support a greater number of families. The North Northamptonshire Council leader said: “We owe a debt of gratitude to the refugees from Afghanistan, many of whom have put their lives in danger to help us”.

Regionally, some other councils have pledged to resettle refugees. Peterborough City Council has pledged to take in 100 refugees and West Northamptonshire is to take in over 300 people with initial accommodation until longer term arrangements are put in place to resettle them in new homes nationwide.

Robert Brettle
December 2021