LEICESTER’S City Mayor has set out his commitment to support Afghan refugees in response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Sir Peter Soulsby says the city council’s housing, education, social care and public health teams are already beginning to help families who have arrived in Leicester fleeing the Taliban, and he expects the full support of Government to provide the resources needed.
“Leicester has a long and proud history of welcoming people to our city,” he said. “We will provide refuge for those who are fleeing conflict and oppression, and we pledge to provide support for Afghan refugees in light of the desperate circumstances in their own country.
“As well as helping to process the applications of Afghans who will settle in other parts of the UK, we will be providing permanent homes in Leicester for a smaller number of Afghan refugees as the resettlement scheme establishes itself. Initially, we have pledged to take in 10 families or up to 60 people in total. We will work closely with the local Afghan community and charities to extend a welcome to these refugees who want to make Leicester their home.
“The process and scheme will be supported by Government funding to local authorities and charities, and it is vital that the Government provides the full resources we will need to fulfil these responsibilities effectively.”
The city council says the numbers of those arriving are still to be established, but the council is in close contact with the Home Office and awaiting further information.
In the meantime, the city council is supporting the families which have already been offered resettlement in Leicester by meeting with housing providers to organise more long-term accommodation for them. The council’s school admissions team has also been in contact with these families to arrange for school places, and it has worked with the local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCG) to arrange health registration.
The city council’s specialist STAR Amal team will also go in to provide support to Afghan refugees. STAR stands for Supporting Tenants and Residents, while Amal is a word which has its origins in Hebrew, Germanic and Arabic. In Arabic, this name means to have hope.
STAR Amal’s specialist workers – who have experience of helping Syrian refugees to resettle in Leicester – have multiple languages and full experience of providing new arrivals with reassurance and orientation as well as practical support with housing, healthcare and education.
A hotel in Leicester is being used as a base for Afghan arrivals after they have completed coronavirus quarantine at hotels in other parts of the country. However, not all of those in the Leicester hotel will necessarily stay in Leicester permanently – the Home Office is managing the distribution of refugees.
The Home Office is also responsible for their care while in the hotels, with the city council working with the Home Office to offer support.
Peter Soulsby added: “At the moment, it is not clear how many Afghan refugees may settle in Leicester beyond the 10 families we have made an initial offer to - as it is still a moving picture. It is vital that we receive proper Government funding to help us provide the support needed.”