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'Play your part': Citizens UK calling on leaders to push for Afghan resettlement scheme

Citizens UK Peterborough wants the Combined Authority to take a role in offering re-settlement support to the people of Afghanistan following Taliban’s takeover of the country earlier in the week, while Peterborough City Council has already pledged to look at support.
Citizen's UK and PCC extend helping hand to Afghan community

The Peterborough branch of Citizens UK, an organisation that works with communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good, held an emergency meeting ion Wednesday, (August 18) about the Afghan crisis and to discuss the next steps in helping its community including the hundreds of families based in Peterborough

This comes after the Taliban seized power over the country following the US exit after almost 20 years of its presence in the country. It is sending fear among civilians who say it will now bring in a brutal regime, with women losing many of the rights they have enjoyed over the past two decades since western troops took over the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. 

Citizens UK Peterborough has written an open letter to Combined Authority Mayor Nik Johnson and Deputy Mayor Wayne Fitzgerald requesting them to play their part in welcoming refugees from Afghanistan. They have asked for their support in calling for the government to act ambitiously and urgently to resettle Afghan refugees to the UK. 

Additionally, they are calling for Afghans already in the UK asylum system to be granted refugee status and for the Home Office to immediately settle the status of undocumented Afghan migrants in the UK. 

In the letter they said: “Peterborough Citizens is a diverse alliance of faith communities, trade unions, schools, colleges, universities, charities and third sector organisations. We exist to work constructively, with those in public office, for social justice and to promote the common good. 

“As Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Cambridgeshire, and council leader, we know you share this pride in our city’s history as a place of sanctuary and we are calling on you to work with us to respond to this human tragedy unfolding before us.

"To encourage the government to be more ambitious with its resettlement scheme we are calling on you to follow other councils and combined authorities in pledging publicly to resettle Afghan families.

"For our part, as organised civil society, we stand ready to work with you to welcome these families into our schools, colleges, places of worship, etc. and will do all in our power to make their experience of resettlement as smooth as possible."

Meanwhile, Peterborough City Council has said it is now looking to step up its 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.  

Cambridgeshire County Council has been engaging with each of its city and district council partners to offer them support – with education and social care - so they can do the same.  

Further discussions are also taking place about what more can be done in the light of the Government’s announcement on Wednesday, (August 18), to step up its offer – and offer resettlement to around 20,000 Afghani people. 

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.  

Peterborough City Council is already running a similar scheme for Syrian refugees having resettled a number of families over the past few years.  

“In this scheme, we benefit from some amazing partnerships with organisations that support us and our new residents with, for example, furnishings for their new homes, toys for their children, access to English language courses and volunteering opportunities. I am hoping all these features will be replicated for the Afghan scheme", said Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, leader of Peterborough City Council.

Elisa Meschini, deputy leader of Cambridgeshire County Council added: “The most critical element to the Afghan scheme is that we can identify and offer affordable housing, and the district councils are the local housing authorities.A number of districts have also confirmed their support to resettle Afghan families and we will support them wherever we can - for example, there may be a need for help or advice from social care or education colleagues."

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has shocked and saddened many of the British Armed Forces personnel that served in the country.  

If this is affecting you, or a loved one, there are a number of Armed Forces specific support organisations that support veterans, reservists or serving personnel that served in Afghanistan and/or other conflicts that can help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression. 

Many are listed on the Forces Connect App that is a free downloadable app available on IOS and Android devices.  

Alternatively, you can make contact with the support agencies here.