People across Somerset have been stepping forward to help support Afghan refugees as the crisis being played out in the international spotlight deepens.
Somerset County Council is committed to help a scheme to house Afghans who supported British military and to resettle interpreters and translators.
And local residents have done our county proud offering spare rooms, lodgings and entire houses to help out.
“It is heart-warming and a fantastic tribute to our residents and communities,” said SCC Leader David Fothergill.
“As a Council we look forward to receiving our allocation of refugees as they arrive in this country, and I know our local residents will do us proud once again as they did with the Syrian refugees over the past few years.”
Charities and voluntary groups have also stepped forward offering children’s toys, clothing and even job opportunities.
The Council anticipates the Government will fund a number of places for refugees through its resettlement programmes. These programmes have strict rules on the types and locations of suitable accommodation.
“It has been an amazing response and I want to acknowledge all those who have offered their time, help and even lodgings or spare rooms,” said Cllr Fothergill.
“Sadly, we are unable to place refugees in temporary accommodation. We have had a number of very generous people offer self-contained flats and houses and that is the type of accommodation that we need.”
Most resettled Afghans will be housed in town centres where they can access specific foods, medicines and transport to link with other communities.
Anyone who would like to help in anyway please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can put you in touch with partners and voluntary groups doing great work in this crisis.
The Council is particularly keen to speak to private landlords with self-contained accommodation – again please contact us at email@example.com.
For more information, visit: www.somerset.gov.uk/refugee-resettlement.
Notes to editors
What we have done in Somerset
Through Resettlement schemes, displaced people who meet United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) selection criteria are referred to and screened by the Home Office, who then work with local authorities to place refugees through safe and planned pathways.
Somerset County Council and its Public Health Team have proudly worked alongside UNHCR, the Home Office, regional Migration Partnership, and district partners since 2015, when we committed to take part in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). This scheme was a UK Government initiative to resettle 20,000 people impacted by the Syrian conflict in the UK by 2020.
The first refugee family was welcomed to Somerset in Spring of 2016. With the help of local services, charities, and generous offers from the community we have since supported 137 people across 30 households to safely resettle.
The New Global Scheme
The UK met its VPRS target in February 2021, which was delayed due to pause on flights caused by the pandemic. The Government has since committed to continue their world-leading refugee resettlement scheme under the new United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme (UKRS).
In July 2021, Somerset County Council pledged to continue its support for refugees by agreeing to take part in UKRS. This scheme takes the success of VPRS and extends to some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees globally.
The Afghan crisis
As the emerging crisis came to public attention in Afghanistan, local authorities have been asked to expand their resettlement support to personnel who supported the British military including interpreters and translators.
No scheme has yet been opened to resettle civilians but we expect a government announcement in the coming days.
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