Devon councillor prioritises housing locals over Afghan refugees

Thousands are fleeing Afghanistan following the collapse of the country's capital to the Taliban. Credit: AP

A councillor in Devon has said priority ought to be given to locals, rather than Afghan refugees, in the search for a home.

It comes as Afghanistan returned to Taliban control after nearly two decades of fighting by British forces.

An agreement has been reached with the government to house Afghan nationals who worked alongside UK troops.

The independent councillor for Bideford North, Doug Bushby, sympathises with the refugees fleeing from the Taliban but believes housing is scarce in Torridge.

He said: "You’ve got to be realistic and face facts: Torridge doesn’t have any housing stock whatsoever.

"We can’t make a decision to house local people ourselves let alone anyone coming in from overseas.

"I have every sympathy and I’m not against the notion that we’ve got to help, particularly the families that were helping the British armed forces when they were in Afghanistan.

A plane carrying Afghans who are desperate to leave their country. The UK has promised to welcome 5,000 this year

"I’m not making an argument that I don’t want them here my question is where are they going?

"You try finding house you can rent anywhere on Torridgeside – they’re gone."

The withdrawal of armed services from Afghanistan has been met with staunch criticism, including from a former Royal Marine in Plymouth who’s worried his service was for nothing.

With the resettlement scheme, a small number of Afghan families could be housed in privately rented accommodation, paid for by the Home Office for a year.

Councillor David Hurley, of Shebbear and Langtree, also expressed concerns about the availability of housing to give to the refugees last week.

He said: "I’m sort of split. Quite what’s going to happen now I really don’t know. I just wonder where they’re all going to go.

"That’s going to be the big point because if I was waiting for a house in Torridge on a list, I’d be very concerned right now about people, no matter where they’re from, jumping into my position.

The government has agreed to allow Afghan refugees to settle but a modest number are expected to arrive in Devon

"The main thing is trying to get more properties built, but the lists are going to get longer and longer the more people we take into the country.

"I see how desperate people are to get out of the country. I can understand why they want to get out of the country.

"It’s a very sad situation to be in. This certainly wasn’t envisaged when the British and the Americans decided to pull out."

The home secretary Priti Patel says Britain will take 20,000 Afghan asylum-seekers, with a promise of 5,000 finding refuge in the UK this year.

It is not clear how many families from the Afghan relocation scheme will come to Devon, but the number is expected to be modest.

Torridge Council says places depend on getting local partners for the LES scheme and applications from the refugee community.

The UK parliament is being recalled from its summer recess today, Wednesday, to debate the situation in Afghanistan.

Credit: Joe Ives, Local Democracy Reporting Service