Ashford Borough Council is getting ready to welcome Afghan families fleeing war-torn country and is appealing to private sector landlords to come forward with accommodation.
The council has increased its efforts to meet the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan by announcing it is willing to help to re-home more Afghan nationals who have been assisting the British Government and Armed Forces in the war-torn country.
The council has reacted swiftly to the emergency by confirming it is in contact with the Government to offer assistance to Afghans and their families who have been supporting our efforts in Afghanistan.
It has already identified accommodation for three households but is looking to increase this to take between five and ten families.
Ashford has a proud track record in coming to the aid of innocent people caught up in international conflicts – around 150 Syrian refugees have resettled in Ashford over the past six years as part of the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. Last year the council won a major national award for its work welcoming Syrian families to the county.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “We are seeing a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding before our very eyes in Afghanistan. People there are in dire need of urgent assistance and Ashford is determined to do our bit to help.
“We must open our hearts to these people and with the experience we have gained welcoming and integrating our Syrian friends into local communities, no-one in the UK is better placed to give these people a safe haven and a new start.”
Appeal to private sector landlords
Just as the council did with the Syrian refugees, the decision has been taken that no social (‘council’) housing will be used to accommodate the Afghans, ensuring that they are not seen as “jumping the queue” when it comes to council housing.
Refugee families are in private sector accommodation, provided by charitable landlords, private landlords and via the council’s lettings agency. The authority is currently reviewing what accommodation is available to the Afghan families and has issued an appeal to private sector landlords to step forward to assist with the process.
In return the council will support the families and work alongside landlords to help those assisted to integrate into our community.
Addressing any concerns about families arriving in Ashford from a country which is on the COVID-19 ‘red list’, Ashford has confirmed that all arrivals from Afghanistan are being placed into quarantine until they are deemed fit to move on.
“Vaccinations can be arranged as part of the health and social care provided to Afghans settling in Ashford and, in line with the Government-funded support available to Syrians as part of the national resettlement scheme, assistance will also be provided with language and skills learning and help getting employment.“
Cllr Clarkson added: “The support of council staff, local residents, voluntary organisations, private sector landlords and community and faith groups was absolutely crucial to enabling successful integration of our Syrian families and I am confident that Ashford will once again rise to the challenge of helping Afghan families to start new lives here in the heart of the Garden of England.”
A proud track record with Syrian refugees
Under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS) launched in 2015, Ashford Borough Council was one of the first local authorities to step forward and has so far welcomed 34 families totalling 146 refugees.
Ashford decided to oversee the project directly and appointed specialist staff within our Housing team to take full responsibility for helping the families integrate with the local community. It was a key decision that no local resident in housing need would suffer as a result of us committing to this programme, and all accommodation secured has been in the private sector which would not have otherwise been available to those on our housing register.
Refugee resettlement schemes are funded by the Home Office so there is no major financial burden on councils.
URGENT APPEAL TO LANDLORDS FROM ASHFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL
Private sector landlords interested in working with Ashford Borough Council to resettle Afghan families should contact Anne Forbes BEM, Refugee Resettlement Programme Project Co-ordinator, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on her mobile phone on 07909 800425.