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Peterborough unites to welcome Afghan community escaping crisis

Community organisations and local politicians in Peterborough are working together in preparation to welcome Afghan Refugees soon. 

This comes as the UK has vowed to welcome 20,000 Afghan refugees into the country due to the ongoing crisis following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan earlier this month. 

The Peterborough Asylum and Refugee Community Association (PARCA) helps thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from different countries every year. It offers practical support to people with helping them integrate in the local society, offers English classes, and provides a safe space to build networks and friendships and any other help the migrant population need to start their life afresh in the UK. 

The centre is now getting ready to welcome Afghan refugees escaping the crisis and has been in touch with the local Hazara and the wider Afghan community-based in Peterborough. 

PARCA chief Moez Nathu held an emergency meeting earlier in the week with the local Afghan community, attended by the city MP Paul Bristow and senior Conservative members from Peterborough City Council including leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald to discuss plans ahead of people arriving into the city. 

Both Peterborough City and Cambridgeshire County councils - already working to provide Afghan citizens support in the light of the current situation – are now looking to step up their efforts.  

In June, all local authorities were contacted by the Government seeking support to resettle Afghan citizens and their families who have been working alongside British armed forces in recognition of the fact that their safety is threatened. 

Peterborough has confirmed back to government its intention to resettle families under this scheme and has been working hard to identify suitable housing and to stand up appropriate support arrangements. 

The scheme offers Afghan citizens an option to resettle in this country with five years 'Leave to Enter the UK' status and a pathway to permanent resettlement. Many of those eligible under the scheme will, for example, have worked as military interpreters.  

Mr Nathu said: “It’s very important to come forward. I am an example too- I have faced challenges and have come a long way. So,  I want to give others the same chance. 

“I am pleased to see PCC coming forward and offering support. There has been interest from the local Peterborough community offering their time and donations which is very positive to see. 

“But I would appeal everyone to join us in making the city a safe place for this community escaping trauma and crisis. I would appeal to volunteers, landlords and anybody that can help. Please come forward and join us. We can design the support they need."

Another Peterborough charity, Light House Community Group launched an appeal on August 23 in support of the Afghan Refugee Resettlement Scheme to the city. In just a few days, it has received an ‘overwhelming response’. 

Following a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) from Peterborough City Council, the Light House Community Group charity took over East Community Centre in Peterborough 18 months ago. Since then they have worked closely with the community and the local authorities to make a difference to the area.

The group has formed a hub at the centre for the collection of items for the impending Afghan Refugees who are looking to come into the city as per the Local Authority’s pledge to take in refugees in the coming days or weeks. Councillor Dr Shabina Qayyum of East Ward was invited to the centre and sent donations of clothes from the public in preparation of receiving the refugees.  

Cllr Patrick Kadewere, trustee of the Lighthouse Community Group charity who now manage the centre said in a statement: “We are delighted to be able to provide space at our centre to help the Afghan Refugees that will be welcomed into the city. We will work closely with the Council and other partner agencies who will be working on this response to ensure those arriving here will be looked after, supported, educated and integrated into a new life within our community.  

“We are happy to take donations of long life food items, toiletries, clothes and shoes in good condition for any gender or age. The Butterfly Legacy Project who have supported our Huntingdonshire Community Group Covid-19 Response Team throughout the pandemic will also be partnering with us on this project,

"They hand made and donated face masks, scrubs, gift bags and so many other essential items to frontline staff throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and they are looking for donations of fabric so they can stitch clothes for the refugees coming into the city.  

“Councillor Shabina has been liaising with us and we are happy that we can support this very important project.” 

Councillor Qayyum said: “We have a sizeable population of Afghan residents in the ward who are naturally worried about loved ones caught up in the recent events in Afghanistan. As their councillor, I’m offering to listen to their concerns and I’m helping with advice and signposting to agencies with their queries.  

“It is very kind of the Light House Community Group to offer space at East Community Centre for donations. I have also been made aware that the council are working with the swift organisation to help the refugees once they come into our city, so everyone is playing their part.  

“It’s been a very difficult year for so many in Peterborough with the pandemic upon us, but our city’s generosity knows no bounds when it comes to helping others and I’m just grateful to be a part of it.” 

The East Community Centre will be accepting donations of long life food items, toiletries, clothes and shoes in good condition for any gender or age from Monday to Friday 7.30pm-9.30pm and Fridays from 2.30-3.30pm. Alternatively to arrange a drop off email