London boroughs are responding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan by supporting families fleeing persecution, says the cross-party group of London Councils.
A survey carried out by the organisation reveals that the majority of London boroughs have offered accommodation and essential support such as counselling and school places to families in need.
As of Monday 31 August, 27 London boroughs have indicated a willingness and ability to take between 125 and 152 families coming into the UK via the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP). More offers from London boroughs are expected to follow in the coming weeks.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, deputy chair of London Councils and executive member for housing and planning, said:
“Boroughs are offering to support as many families as they can while managing existing pressures and priorities. We do this standing shoulder to shoulder with councils across the country, contributing to the overall national response.
“We are also working closely with Government and the Mayor of London to ensure the funding is in place to properly support the health, education, housing and social integration of Afghan arrivals, in line with previous resettlement programmes.
“We know many Londoners wish to do something for the scared, exhausted families coming to our city. Right now, the best way to help is to donate to your local food bank and contact your local volunteer centre,” he said.
Camden Council says it is ready to welcome refugees from Afganistan and it has pledged to provide housing, food, healthcare and education.
Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of the Council, said: “We are concerned for the safety of all Afghan citizens and are particularly concerned about the safety and rights of women and girls. The Government must act quickly to ensure the safe and legal passage for those fleeing the Taliban and we stand ready in Camden to welcome refugees seeking safety.
“Camden has a long and proud history of helping refugees, often stepping in where government has failed to take action. We will welcome families into our borough and give them the support and help they need to rebuild their lives.
“We will work with all of our partners and local community organisations to offer the best help we can to families who find themselves in this desperate situation,” she said.
Westminster Council says it is seeking properties in Westminster that could be suitable for re-housing refugees as part of the scheme for those who worked for the UK in Afghanistan.
The scheme requires local authorities to obtain privately-rented accommodation, supported by a Home Office grant and administered by councils. Westminster is asking landlords to email its Housing Solutions Service at email@example.com, marking the subject line ‘Afghan Resettlement Scheme’.
The Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) is open to locally employed staff (LES) in Afghanistan who have worked for the British Embassy and alongside British forces over the past 20 years, and their families. Under this new relocation policy, Afghan LES and their families may be eligible to apply for five years ‘Leave to Enter the UK’ with a pathway to resettlement thereafter.