Councils across the South East pledge support to Afghan refugees

Report by ITV News Meridian's Tony Green

Councils across the South East are among those pledging to support refugees from Afghanistan 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.

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.

Portsmouth City Council has welcomed three families, with a further six expected over the next few weeks.

Councillor Vernon-Jackson, the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: "Portsmouth City Council has been one of a number of councils working with the Home Office to support the resettlement of Afghan families who worked with British armed forces, including translators.

"The scheme uses vacant MoD properties in the city with the council providing the support the families need to settle. The scheme is fully funded by the government.

"Three families have been welcomed into the city and a further six families are expected over the next few weeks.

"We will continue to work with the government as a wider response is developed to the new resettlement scheme."

South Oxfordshire District Council says it can resettle one family immediately.

The following councils have all confirmed they will offer respite for those fleeing their homeland:

  • Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

  • Vale of White Horse District Council

  • Surrey Heath Borough Council

  • Reading Borough Council

  • Adur District Council

  • Worthing Borough Council

  • Medway Council

Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry, Leader of Southampton City Council, said: "Southampton is a city of sanctuary, and over recent months we’ve worked closely with the Home Office to arrange to welcome a small number of refugee families in a planned way.

"Following the rapid escalation of events in Afghanistan, we are in discussions with regional and government stakeholders to provide further support as needed, so that people coming to Southampton are given every opportunity to integrate into our communities and rebuild their lives safely."

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.

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

There have been also been concerns 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."