Afghan families who helped UK armed forces to be offered homes in Lancaster
Up to five families from Afghanistan could be rehomed in Lancaster after councillors agreed to be a part of a government relocation scheme aimed at supporting those who worked for the British Forces.
The decision comes as fears for their safety grow with international troops preparing to leave the country.
Those involved in the resettlement include Afghans who worked as translators, along with their families and others whose lives are under threat because they worked for the British government during the two decades that the UK military has been fighting in Afghanistan.
Up to 25 people from five families could be rehoused in Lancaster after Lancaster City Council accepted an invite which went out to all local authorities to be part of the government’s Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation Scheme.
Due to changes in the international presence in Afghanistan, the government plans to immediately accelerate the relocation of current and former locally employed staff and their families who worked for the British Forces, often in dangerous and challenging situations, from Afghanistan to the UK.
This is in recognition of the commitment and bravery shown by local staff who supported UK forces in Afghanistan, and is designed to provide appropriate support that honours their service and properly reflects their work and the risks involved.
The proposal was rubber stamped at a council meeting on Monday after being treated as a matter of urgency - and the decision means five families totalling up to 25 people could arrive in Lancaster between now and September under the scheme.
Councils taking part will be provided with funding to house and support the families when they first arrive and for a 12 month period.
This will involve an integration package, and financial support until they satisfy the Habitual Residency Test set by the Department for Work and Pensions, which can take up to three months.
Funding is provided to the local authority from the government to support families for the 12 months through a grant funding arrangement, including rent, furnishings, living expenses and integration support.
This means there is no financial burden on the local authority.
Due to the urgent nature of the scheme, there has not been widespread consultation, although Lancashire County Council, the director of public health for Lancashire, Morecambe Bay CCG and Global Link have all been consulted.
Lancaster is designated as a City of Sanctuary with an aim to provide a welcoming place of safety for people fleeing violence and persecution, building a culture of hospitality and inclusiveness within the city, and it is recognised by the council that support services set up as part of this scheme will benefit other members of the community.
Lancaster City Council previously took part in both the Syrian Resettlement Programme and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme, and so has experience in welcoming and supporting refugee families.
Fifteen families in total were resettled between July 2017 and September 2019, and families arriving as part of these programmes were accommodated in a combination of council Housing and housing association properties as well as in the private rented sector. It is anticipated that this mix of tenures, subject to availability, will continue.
There are established networks in Lancaster with experience of providing integration support to new arrivals, and it is anticipated that these networks will provide integration support to any arrivals for the 12 month period.
Any arrivals will go through all the necessary quarantine processes and family members would need to be engaged with vaccination as soon as they arrive in the UK.
Those individuals who qualify and choose to relocate to the UK with their families can apply for permanent residence in the UK after five years.