By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
BOTH Gosport and Fareham borough councils have plans in place to welcome Afghan families who have been evacuated from the chaos and carnage of their ravaged country.
As the US, British and other coalition armed forces prepare to end the airlift and leave Hamid Karzai International Airport, suicide bombers struck on Thursday.
News agencies are reporting that more than 170 people were killed – including 13 US military personnel – and many others wounded but the numbers are unlikely be precise because of the confused situation at and around the airport.
By Thursday evening, the Ministry of Defence said the UK’s Operation Pitting had airlifted more than 13,000 people from Kabul. Of these, many are British nationals but others will be Afghans who worked with the British forces there over the last 20 years. They face not only having to settle into a new way of life in Britain but also overcoming the trauma they will have suffered over the last few weeks.
‘It is very important that we continue to support Afghan people who have played a crucial role in supporting and protecting our Armed Forces in Afghanistan’
Gosport and Fareham borough councils say they are ready to step up and welcome these families.
The Leader of Gosport Borough Council, Councillor Graham Burgess, told The Globe: “We are already working with the government to resettle Afghan people who have supported our armed forces, such as interpreters and translators.
“We will be welcoming five families soon, who will be housed in Ministry of Defence married quarters. We will continue to offer our support as the government’s plans for resettling more Afghan refugees develop.
“As an ex-serviceman, I believe it is very important that we continue to support Afghan people who have played a crucial role in supporting and protecting our armed forces in Afghanistan.”
Fareham Borough Council said it, “has actively supported the Government’s ‘Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme’ since its launch in 2015 and will continue to work closely with Hampshire County Council and the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration.
“More recently, we have confirmed our commitment to the ‘Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation Scheme’. This is for Afghan nationals who worked with British Forces and we are due to welcome our first family in the coming weeks.
“We are now awaiting guidance following the announcement made by the Prime Minister to further extend this scheme to other Afghan nationals.”
‘The immediate priority has been to ensure that appropriate support for the families is in place’
At the county level, the council is working with district and borough councils as well as the NHS and other support providers including charities in order to respond to requests from the Home Office to support Afghan families who are to be resettled in the UK.
Hampshire County Council added: “The rapidly changing situation has meant that interim, short term placements are also now needed.
“To support this urgent requirement, temporary accommodation has been secured in the county, before more permanent arrangements can be made, and a number of families have been welcomed in the last few days.
“The immediate priority has been to ensure that appropriate support for the families is in place and that they are made to feel welcome to our county following a very difficult and disorientating period in their lives.”
The UK Government announced in mid-August that the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme, “will welcome up to 5,000 vulnerable Afghans to the UK, who have been forced to flee the country, in its first year, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term.”
This commitment will place additional pressure on local authorities such as Hampshire at the county level – and Gosport and Fareham borough councils – to find accommodation for Afghan families at a time when resources are stretched as the UK emerges from the pandemic lockdowns and continues to live with Covid-19.
Photo (above): Sky News reports Kabul airport bombing