Afghanistan: Refugees should be housed 'in all parts' of UK

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Media caption,

Cardiff taxi driver fears for his family in Afghanistan

If every part of the UK took refugees fleeing Afghanistan, "less than a handful of families" would be housed in each area, a council boss has said.

Andrew Morgan, leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), said it was important local authorities "play our part".

So far, homes for at least 21 families have been offered by Wales' councils.

The Welsh government said it was "working very hard" with councils towards being "a nation of sanctuary".

The UK has sent about 900 troops to Afghanistan to help evacuate British nationals and Afghans who are eligible to resettle in the UK.

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This group includes Afghans who worked for the British government, as well as interpreters, cultural advisers and embassy staff.

Others eligible are those deemed to be at high and imminent risk, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Morgan, who also leads Rhondda Cynon Taf council, said he and other senior councillors from across the UK discussed with UK government ministers on Monday night "how we give sanctuary to the Afghan interpreters and their families".

He said: "If we all sign up to this, we're talking less than a handful of families actually per local authority area, so the numbers are actually very, very small.

"The alternative is that these people, quite frankly, could be persecuted in the next couple of weeks if we don't help them.

"I wouldn't want it on my conscience that we see in a month's time that a number of individuals and families are being killed in Afghanistan when we had the opportunity to help them come here."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Thousands of Afghans rush to the Kabul International Airport as they try to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul

Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, said: "The Welsh government is working very hard with our local authorities, and indeed with the UK government, to ensure that we can do what we can to provide support in the right places to find homes for people fleeing the situation in Afghanistan.

"We are working towards being a nation of sanctuary."

She said it was also important to offer support for other people affected by the situation, including veterans and those already settled in Wales.

Many Welsh councils have already agreed to offer safe homes to Afghan refugees.

BBC Wales has contacted all 22 Welsh local authorities asking if they are supporting the UK government's Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which urges councils to provide accommodation to those leaving Afghanistan.

Seventeen councils have responded so far, with almost all saying they can provide housing.

About 24 houses have been offered in Wales, with Wrexham alone offering 10.

Only one council has so far said it is unable to help.

Neath Port Talbot Council said it had already given support to a number of Afghan people under the scheme, but it could not do so in the current phase.

It said it was facing "pressure on local housing stock" due to the combined effect of homelessness and people hit by flooding in Skewen.

"We keep the position under continuous review and are committed to helping where we can," it said.

Where can refugees be homed?

  • Anglesey: Hopes to resettle one Afghan family
  • Blaenau Gwent: Two homes have been offered; the first family is due in September
  • Bridgend: A spokesman said: "An initial expression of interest had been made pending more details of the scheme, but we are not yet fully signed up
  • Caerphilly: Currently home to a family of five refugees, looking to support more
  • Carmarthenshire: Offered homes to 15 individuals or three households. The first arrived on 3 July on the first evacuation flight
  • Ceredigion: A spokesman said they are "urgently considering the options available and is in contact with the UK Government officials"
  • Conwy: Agreed to resettle one family
  • Denbighshire: Offered accommodation to one family
  • Flintshire: Will be supporting the Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Programme scheme and is currently working to understand specific requirements
  • Gwynedd: The council is supporting the scheme. Two people have already been resettled in the county
  • Monmouthshire: Supports the scheme but cannot confirm figures at this point
  • Powys: Agreed to provide three homes
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf: Will support the national Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Programme. Says this equates to a handful of families relocated to each council area
  • Swansea: We are welcoming three families in August and are looking to welcome more
  • Vale of Glamorgan: The council is supporting this scheme, the number of homes it will offer will be determined after careful assessment of local resources
  • Wrexham: Has agreed to accommodate up to 10 families

Wales is a 'nation of sanctuary'

Image caption,
Reynette Roberts says refugees need facilities when they arrive in new countries to help them adapt

Reynette Roberts is CEO of Oasis Cardiff, a refugee centre that helps people integrate when they come to Wales.

"I think Wales should be proud, because it is a nation of sanctuary," she said.

"I think seeing the people fleeing in the airport makes you realise and remember that, when people flee, they don't take anything with them.

"You didn't see suitcases at the airport, you just saw people escape and try and get to a place of safety."

"I'd like to see a fair and open resettlement scheme that has good facilities in place to integrate people into the community here, and support those that will have been severely traumatised.

"When people arrive they need to have English classes, they need to have some time to settle down and regroup, to understand how this new society works so they can feel part of it."

Cricketer 'worried about the situation back home'

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Qais Ahmad is "naturally down", as his wife remains in Afghanistan, Mark Wallace says

Welsh Fire bowler Qais Ahmad is from Kabul and his wife is still in the country as the Taliban takes over. 

Glamorgan director of cricket Mark Wallace said: "We're trying to support Qais as much as possible - obviously he's worried about the situation back home, as we are on his behalf too.

"We've all seen the scenes in Afghanistan and it's shocking for us - and you can imagine how that affects people with family back at home.

"He was naturally down.

"We've managed to put some support in place for him to be able to communicate how he's doing but if he feels as if he can't play then, of course, he'll be sitting out - and making sure everything back at home is as stable as it can be."