'Refugees are welcome here': North West prepare for Afghan refugees amid Taliban takeover

Video report by ITV Correspondent Elaine Willcox

The North West is preparing to welcome Afghan refugees as part of a scheme to provide sanctuary for those most at risk of persecution by the Taliban.

The government has promised, in the first year, the UK would take 5,000 refugees - mainly women and girls, and religious and other minorities - with up to 20,000 in the longer term.

Cheshire East Council confirmed on Wednesday (18 August) that they are providing support for Afghan families while they are living in temporary accommodation.

They have also pledged to provide longer-term accommodation for five families.

Nichola Thompson, director of commissioning for Cheshire East Council, said: “Various council services will be important in helping these new arrivals settle and adapt to life in the UK and we will be working closely with other local organisations, and the Home Office, to provide a safe and supportive transition for them.”

Meanwhile Care4Calais is asking for donations of any kind to help those landing in the UK with very little.

Liverpool and Manchester are also among areas in the North West who have stepped up to welcome those fleeing the war-torn country.

British nationals and Afghan evacuees depart a flight from Afghanistan at RAF Brize Norton. Credit: PA

The first evacuation flight carrying British nationals and Afghans arrived in the UK on Sunday, with the second touching down late on Tuesday night, while another landed early on Wednesday morning.

Reports suggest many are expected to be housed at two airport hotels in Manchester.

Speaking on Tuesday, the leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese, said: "We’re expecting planes to be landing at any moment and we're certainly not going to turn our back on those people.

"But what we're going to continue to do is make the case that, if we really are a caring country, we need to put the proper resources and systems in to be able to spot these people quickly, get them out of hotels and get them into homes."

Mayor of the wider Liverpool region Steve Rotheram also showed his support.

He said: "Our city region has long been a sanctuary for escaping war, famine and persecution and we will do all we can to assist."

The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will target women, children, and others who have been forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban.

Speaking on social media, Liverpool's mayor Joanne Anderson, said: "The images we are seeing from Afghanistan are truly heart breaking.

"Women and men are living in fear of their lives. Along with the rest of the world, the UK must play its part in helping – and Liverpool stands ready to assist."

MPs were recalled from their summer break to debate the situation in Afghanistan. Political Correspondent Lise McNally told ITV Granada Reports there were some very strong feelings in the House of Commons.

There have been also been concerns from many around what security vetting is in place for those fleeing Afghanistan.

Those working with refugees insist it is rigorous.

A Home Office Spokesperson said: "In supporting vulnerable Afghan citizens who face threats of persecution, we will not compromise on security.

"We have incredibly thorough checks across Government and our world-class intelligence agencies. If somebody presents a danger to this country we do not allow them to travel here."