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Three Surrey Boroughs Pledge to Help Afghan Refugee Families

Published on: 17 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 22 Aug, 2021

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Surrey Heath, Elmbridge and Woking councils have pledged to help at least eight Afghan families fleeing their country after they risked their lives to help UK forces.

After the US and its allies spent 20 years trying to transform Afghanistan, the Taliban took control of the capital Kabul on Sunday (August 15).

Three of Surrey’s 11 boroughs and districts have committed to rehoming some of the people desperately trying to escape the country bordered by Iran and Pakistan.

Guildford Borough Council, which has housed Syrian refugees, has been asked to say whether they will also offer help.

Surrey Heath has five furnished flats ready to go, while Elmbridge is urgently appealing to landlords to provide three homes. Woking Borough Council, which has not committed to a particular number at this stage, is also looking for landlords who can help.

Surrey Heath Borough Council’s Executive agreed in July to take urgent action in accepting five families who are in grave danger after working as translators for the UK.

Councillor Shaun Garrett (Con, Old Dean), portfolio holder for Support and Safeguarding, said today: “It was a no-brainer, for me we have to do what we can to help them.

“They have served our country well, often working with challenging and dangerous conditions for both them and their families.

“If we had more housing available we could consider helping more.”

The government provides funding to support the families for four months and the councils help the refugees to find jobs and school places and set up bank accounts.

Council leader Alan McClafferty (Con, St Michaels) said in the Executive meeting where it was agreed, four weeks ago: “My understanding is the government asked every borough and district to participate in the scheme and up until now, a fairly small minority have put their name forward to accept some – 27 in the South East of England – and I’m proud of the fact that we’ve stepped up and we’re one of them.”

Councillor Sashi Mylvaganam (LD, Frimley Green) said he was delighted “we are able to help the people who helped our soldiers”.

He added: “I sincerely hope we can get them in safely.”

The first family arrived last week and the second is due this week. Each of the five couples is bringing one child to the safety of the borough.

The Ministry of Defence said on Monday the UK would send another 200 troops to join its 700 already in Kabul, to help evacuate British nationals and Afghans who are eligible to resettle in the UK.

Locally Employed Staff, who have been supporting UK forces in Afghanistan since 2013, may apply for permanent residency after living in the UK for five years.

Elmbridge Borough Council, which has previously resettled a number of Syrian refugee families, put out an appeal to landlords last week to help it rehome three Afghan families.

It is seeking one, two or three-bedroom properties that are ready to rent out, ideally within the next two months for at least 12 months.

Housing portfolio holder Cllr Neil Houston (Ind, Long Ditton) said: “We are committed to our pledge to resettle three families and we will be working with organisations like Elmbridge CAN [a refugee charity] to provide support to the families for up to a year after their arrival – from help with medical needs and arranging English lessons to setting up bank accounts and finding jobs.

“If you think you could help with a property in Elmbridge, please do consider signing up to the relocation scheme and help these families build a new life in our borough.”

In Woking, council leader Ayesha Azad (Con, Heathlands) said: “Woking residents have a long history of welcoming people from all walks of life, of every nationality, belief and background; most recently around 50 Syrian families displaced by the civil war have been settled in our borough. As a community, we continue to be committed to assisting those in need.

“We have been and will continue to work with government to consider supporting the Afghan Resettlement Scheme to ensure we play our part in offering support to those fleeing violence in their homeland.

“If you think you could help by offering a property in Woking, please contact the council by emailing”

Waverley Borough Council and Tandridge District Council said: “We are currently exploring options and while not in a position to provide specific detail at this time, consideration is being given to a partnership approach with neighbouring district and borough councils.”

Elmbridge landlords who want to help can email or phone 01372 474631.

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Responses to Three Surrey Boroughs Pledge to Help Afghan Refugee Families

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    August 18, 2021 at 8:46 am

    Guildford’s steady slide from leading in Surrey continues. Where is the forward planning?

    I congratulate Surrey Heath in particular for being ahead of the curve. Woking and Elmbridge should also be proud of their forward thinking. I am proud of what the previous administration did for Syrian refugee families and I hope that the current administration can catch up with other Surrey Boroughs and Districts PDQ to help those in need from Afghanistan.

    Paul Spooner is a Conservative borough councillor for Ash South & Tongham

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