Afghan refugee families arrive as council pledges to stand by those who helped Armed Forces
FOUR families of Afghan refugees have been offered homes in South Gloucestershire.
The local authority says it is working with a community organisation to prepare for their arrival and hopes to make further re-settlement offers as soon as possible.
South Gloucestershire Council asked private landlords to come forward with homes for Afghan families after Kabul fell to the Taliban last month.
At that stage, it said it had found at least three homes for families fleeing militant rule but was hoping to identify more.
In September, a spokesperson said: “So far we have offered to re-settle four Afghan families and have been in discussions with our contacts in social housing and the private rented sector, where we hope to identify further placements.
“We are working with our partners at Southern Brooks Community Partnerships in preparation to welcome these families and help them to integrate within our local communities, as they re-build their lives.
“Southern Brooks have already received generous offers of help from communities and will be in touch with people in due course.”
In August council cabinet member Franklin Owusu-Antwi (pictured above), who is an Afghanistan veteran and the council’s Armed Forces champion, said the authority was "standing by to play our part in supporting those who are resettled from Afghanistan following the recent, dramatic changes there".
He said: "We stand by our own Armed Forces veterans and others who risked and sacrificed so much to help in Afghanistan; so it is right that we also now stand by those local people who worked alongside them, often sharing the same risks, and who now need our help.”
Writing in the Downend Voice last month, Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti, who also served in Afghanistan, said: "I cannot help but keep remembering the ordinary people of Afghanistan and the locally employed civilians who not only risked their lives but, by helping NATO forces, risked the lives of their families, friends and villages to Taliban reprisals.
"I was delighted and relieved beyond measure when the Prime Minister announced the resettlement and evacuation programme for refugees, which is a fantastic thing."
A total of 61 Afghan refugees have already arrived in Bristol, with over 100 more are expected in the coming weeks.
They will be put up in temporary accommodation before being resettled permanently, either in or outside the region.
The Home Office is paying for emergency hotel accommodation for new arrivals in the biggest evacuation operation in recent history.
The figures were confirmed at a meeting of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group in September.
Medical director Peter Brindle said: “The refugees arriving have been in a managed quarantine centre up until now, where they have received very little if any healthcare intervention and no healthcare screening."
Bristol City Council director of public health Christina Gray, who is leading a multi-agency team managing the refugees, told the meeting: “What we are dealing with in Bristol is the arrival of a large number of people in transit.
“Every local authority has been asked to do permanent settlements, so alongside the management and welcome and holding of people in transit we have the work to do to make sure people are permanently settled.
“That will be going on across all our authorities.
“Bristol is a City of Sanctuary. We all feel proud to be part of this global response and do our local bit."
She said the response from the public had been “absolutely phenomenal”, adding: “People have already been coming forward to respond to our request to provide accommodation, people have made financial donations, clothes, volunteering."
South Gloucestershire Council is inviting local landlords or property owners who believe they may have suitable accommodation available to contact email@example.com.
By Amanda Cameron and Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service