North East and North Yorkshire councils vow to provide "safer future" to Afghan refugees

North East and North Yorkshire councils have vowed to provide a "safer future" for refugees fleeing the crisis in Afghanistan. 

Harrogate will take in "more than our quota" of Afghan refugees fleeing the country following the Taliban takeover, the leader of the borough council has pledged.

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said the city "stands ready to play its part" for those escaping the violence. The pledge was echoed by Northumberland, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham authorities.

The region's MPs have been recalled to Parliament early to debate the ongoing situation in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

 Our region's MPs had this exchange about the withdrawal of our forces:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new resettlement scheme for Afghan citizens.

In the first year of the scheme, the UK would take 5,000 refugees - mainly women and girls, and religious and other minorities, up to a total on 20,000 in the years to come.

This is on top of the existing scheme for interpreters and others who worked for the UK.

A demonstration was also held in Westminster on Wednesday (18 August) - among them Haseeb who was an interpreter for British forces in Afghanistan and now lives in Newcastle:

Harrogate councillor Richard Cooper said the refugees were "in need of and deserve our assistance” and pledged his support for the government's plans to resettle up to 20,000 Afghan refugees in the UK.

He added: "Harrogate is a welcoming, tolerant and diverse place and these people are in need of our assistance and deserve our assistance.”

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: "It has been devastating to see the recent developments in Afghanistan unfold, it is almost impossible for us to imagine the plight and suffering of people desperately seeking to flee their homes.

"We are keen to hear the Government's plans to extend resettlement support to refugees fleeing Afghanistan and Newcastle stands ready to play its part."

This was echoed by Northumberland County Council who said the authority would initially provide a new home to three families.

A spokesman said: "Northumberland has a long history of supporting those in need from other countries and prior to the current situation in Afghanistan we agreed to the Government's request to support their Afghan Local Employed Staff (LES) resettlement proposals.

Gordon Elliott, Durham County Council's head of partnerships and community engagement, also said his authority would be providing assistance.

He continued: "We can confirm that as with councils across the country we have been approached by the government about the resettlement of families from Afghanistan.

Sunderland City Council's cabinet secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, said: "The city council and the people of Sunderland have always worked closely with national authorities on refugee and asylum dispersal schemes, and will do so again with Afghan nationals."

Meanwhile, Gateshead Council has already began welcoming people from Afghanistan.

A spokesman said: "We have a team of people in Gateshead dedicated to supporting and integrating refugees. We work with the North East Migration Partnership to help deliver the Government's Resettlement programmes here in the region.

"Via this partnership Gateshead has been communicating with the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office to respond to the crisis in Afghanistan. In the past month we have welcomed a number of families and individuals from Afghanistan and going forward we will support more people."