Hundreds of Afghans who helped UK housed in Dorset military camp

  • Watch: West Dorset MP Chris Loder (Con) talks about welcoming Afghan families to Dorset

A military camp in Dorset will be used to house up to 250 Afghans who supported the UK Government and military in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is using Chickerell Camp near Weymouth to accommodate people from Afghanistan and their families who have the right to remain in the UK.

Dorset Council has said the arrangement is temporary, while more permanent MoD homes are found.

It said men, women and children would be housed at the camp for up to six weeks at a time.

The news comes after a migrant died on the Bibby Stockholm barge on Tuesday 13 December but Dorset Council has stressed that the scheme is not linked to, nor will it have an impact on the county's Home Office barge.

A council spokesperson said: "We understand the Ministry of Defence (MoD) intends to use Chickerell Camp, near Weymouth to provide temporary accommodation to people from Afghanistan.

"This is part of a wider scheme to relocate entitled people who worked with or for the British Armed Forces and other Government departments throughout operations in Afghanistan.   

"The people we understand will be staying at Chickerell Camp will be men, women and children and are not refugees, they are entitled persons who have a right to remain in the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

"They are entitled to live, work and access all services and benefits here, in recognition of their support to the British Government and British armed forces, our military and personnel, when based in Afghanistan. 

"The Chickerell Camp arrangements are not linked to, nor are anticipated to have any impact on the Home Office Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland Port. 

"To our knowledge, people will be housed here temporarily for up to 6 weeks at a time, while their more permanent homes at other MOD sites across the UK are prepared."

The MP for West Dorset, Chris Loder, added: “I’m pleased that we are doing our bit to help those who would otherwise be at great risk in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule and I’m sure that other the people of Chickerell and wider West Dorset will offer a warm welcome to those who will be with us over Christmas time for up to 6 weeks.

"The ARAP scheme is for Afghan citizens who worked for or with the UK Government and British Armed Forces in Afghanistan in exposed or meaningful roles and who are in danger.

"From 13 December, eligible families will begin to move into Chickerell Camp on a revolving basis for a period of up to six months whilst we bring them to safety.

"it is regrettable that this will have a negative impact on the Cadet facility in Chickerell, but I have been to meet with the Armed Forces Minister yesterday to ask for alternative provision to be found and hope to have an update shortly."

A government leaflet sent to residents said: "Over the next few months, you will see families arriving and leaving MoD properties in your area on a revolving basis.

"The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) is not intended as an open resettlement scheme for all Afghans wishing to relocate to the UK."

A government spokesperson said: "We owe a debt of gratitude to those brave Afghans who risked their lives working alongside our forces in support of the UK.

"To ensure ARAP-eligible families, who have the legal right to remain in the UK, can begin a settled life in the UK as quickly as possible, the UK Government is offering transitional and settled accommodation from the Ministry of Defence Estate, including at Chickerell."