Lib Dem councillors call for action on Afghan refugee crisis

Shropshire Lib Dems are joining councillors and activists across the country in calling on their councils and MPs for greater and faster action on the Afghan refugee crisis. Many councillors are lobbing their MPs, including Carshalton & Wallington. There is a row going on in Guilford, where the Lib Dems are getting on with the job but the Conservatives are trying to score political points. Elsewhere, there are some difficulties in councils acting refugees because of budget and housing constraints.

I am pleased and proud to live in a county that is welcoming to refugees. It is always a challenge to find housing and ensure the right level of support and independence for refugees. But we know that they settle well and become part of our community. With the experience of the Syrian Resettlement Programme (VPRS), we are ready to take many more but that will depend on a greater ambition and degree of humanity than the government is currently showing.

Bobby Dean, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Carshalton & Wallington has written to the local MP Elliot Colburn MP insisting the Government offers relocation to all those that risked their lives to serve Britain’s interests. In the letter, Dean said British servicemen and women “should hold their heads high” for their service in Afghanistan, but the Conservative Prime Minister and other political leaders should “hang their heads in shame” for making a mess of the withdrawal.

Cllr McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough) told the Guildford Dragon:

We are already working with the Ministry of Defence to house refugees, separately with local community groups, and finally we are waiting to be allocated a number from the government of how many refugee families we will be asked to house. Whatever happens, we will be creating safe spaces for refugees in Guildford. As the row between Conservatives and Lib Dems continued, Zoe Franklin, Guildford Lib Dem’s spokesperson on parliamentary matters told the Dragon the government has only committed to housing 5,000 refugees (just seven per constituency) over the coming year. The remaining 15,000 is over an unspecified “long-term”.

Not all Lib Dem councils are able to accept refugees. The Lib Dem leader of Torbay says the town has no room. Chelmsford has previously said it couldn’t afford to house more than a few refugees under the government’s schemes.

There will be, I am sure, much more action by local councillors. Please let everyone know what you are doing in the comments section.

Media release from Shropshire Lib Dems

In response to the crisis in Afghanistan and the dangers faced by many Afghan nationals, especially women and girls , Shropshire Liberal Democrat Councillors are supportive of Shropshire Council participating in the recently announced refugee resettlement scheme.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader and Underdale Councillor, David Vasmer said:

At the Shropshire Council meeting held in May, councillors voted unanimously to support Shropshire becoming a Council of Sanctuary.  Now is the  time to put that cross-party support for refugees into action and I hope that Shropshire can take a leading role nationally in the resettlement of Afghans ensuring the safety and resettlement of those at risk.

The Government have recently announced a Refugee Resettlement Scheme similar to the scheme used to support Syrian Refugees, exact details are still unclear,  but it is hopeful that up to 20, 000  refugees can be supported to live safer lives in the UK.

Bishop’s Castle  Councillor, Ruth Houghton said:

Shropshire is well placed to help Afghan refugees by  building on the expertise and knowledge gained  through supporting the successful resettlement of Syrian refugees over the last 5 years. There are also excellent voluntary organisations such as Shropshire Supports Refugees and  others  who are willing to step forward to help where they can.

Deputy Group Leader Councillor Heather Kidd said:

This is the time to seriously investigate innovative temporary  housing options such as  the use of pods or converted shipping containers in order to help these vulnerable and at risk  people to reach a place of safety to whom we owe so much. It is vitally important that their new homes are where they can be supported, children can go to school and the doctors surgeries are able to take them on. Transport is also needed – not always an easy thing in Shropshire!

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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2 Comments

  • Nom de Plume 20th Aug '21 - 11:45pm

    20, 000 refugees. How are they going to get from Afghanistan to the UK with the NATO operation set to finish by 31 August, and even earlier if the Taliban choose to close the airport? I may have a partial answer. Apparently, due to the worsening security situation, the UK and France have been using an air bridge to fly out eligible Afghans for months. Amazing what one can learn from foreign news channels (Dutch on this occasion).

  • Just to be clear about your reference to Chelmsford: under the Tories until 2019, none had been accepted. After the election when Lib Dems took over, we were keen to help if we could, but there are two problems (a) very few houses to rent (we don’t have any “council houses”) and (b) even if one is available, there is a gap between the amount the Government will pay in housing benefit and the actual rent cost. Our plans to accept refugees were then further delayed a year due to Covid.

    In addition to the refugees referenced in the article, there are now five Afghan families in Chelmsford and we are doing what we can to help them settle and find a proper home.

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