Here's how you can help as Afghan refugee families begin to arrive in Lancaster
Donations are being accepted from people wishing to help as the first Afghan refugees arrive in the city.
As we reported last month, Lancaster City Council has agreed to support up to 25 people from five families in the city after accepting an invite which went out to all local authorities to be part of the government’s Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation Scheme.
The decision came as fears for their safety grew with international troops preparing to leave the country.
Those involved in the resettlement include Afghans who worked as translators, along with their families and others whose lives are under threat because they worked for the British government during the two decades that the UK military has been fighting in Afghanistan.
Lancaster is among many Lancashire councils which have agreed to provide homes for dozens of desperate refugees fleeing Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control this week.
The UK Government has said that around 20,000 Afghans most at risk of persecution under the Taliban regime will be given refuge in the UK.
The news comes as footage of distressing scenes has been shared on TV and social media from Kabul airport, as men, women and children desperately try to find refuge.
Many of them say they are in fear for their life due to their work with the British or US Armed Forces.
The first Afghan family has now arrived in Lancaster, with more to follow between now and September, and local residents can now help out by offering items needed to help the families settle in.
A Lancaster City Council spokesman said housing suitable for families is highest on the agenda.
The spokesman said: "In our commitment to supporting the UK’s resettlement programme, we have already found housing for one Afghan family in the area and will continue working with our partners to find suitable accommodation in the private sector for up to a further four families under the government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.
"Progress has been made on this and we are very much looking forward to welcoming and supporting those families over the coming weeks."
Any landlord in the Lancaster district who wants to help an Afghan family should call Global Link on 01524 36201.
People are also encouraged to donate to charities such as Care4Calais or local ones including Global Link (via www.globallink.org.uk) as well as write to their MPs to speed up the visa/resettlement process for as many Afghan people as possible.
MPs can also be lobbied to stop the Borders and Nationality Act which criminalises desperate refugees in Calais, including the many Afghans who are trying to seek safety in the UK.
Lancaster is designated as a City of Sanctuary with an aim to provide a welcoming place of safety for people fleeing violence and persecution, building a culture of hospitality and inclusiveness within the city, and it is recognised by the council that support services set up as part of this scheme will benefit other members of the community.
Lancaster City Council previously took part in both the Syrian Resettlement Programme and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme, and so has experience in welcoming and supporting refugee families.
Fifteen families in total were resettled between July 2017 and September 2019, and families arriving as part of these programmes were accommodated in a combination of council Housing and housing association properties as well as in the private rented sector. It is anticipated that this mix of tenures, subject to availability, will continue.
There are established networks in Lancaster with experience of providing integration support to new arrivals, and it is anticipated that these networks will provide integration support to any arrivals for the 12 month period.
Any arrivals will go through all the necessary quarantine processes and family members would need to be engaged with vaccination as soon as they arrive in the UK.
Those individuals who qualify and choose to relocate to the UK with their families can apply for permanent residence in the UK after five years.
There is no financial burden on the local authority from the scheme as funding is provided by the government to support families for 12 months through a grant funding arrangement, including rent, furnishings, living expenses and integration support.
This involves an integration package, and financial support until they satisfy the Habitual Residency Test set by the Department for Work and Pensions, which can take up to three months.