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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Eight Afghan refugee families living in Kirklees, council confirms

They have arrived following the collapse of democracy in their homeland.

Eight families who fled the Taliban take-over in Afghanistan last summer are now living in Kirklees, the local authority has confirmed.

The figures were made public following an inquiry by the Local Democracy Reporting Service and come nine months after a senior councillor said Afghans forced to leave their homeland would be guaranteed refuge in the borough.

In an emotive speech, last September Cllr Carole Pattison (Lab, Greenhead) said Kirklees had a 21-year history of assisting asylum seekers via the Asylum Seeker Dispersal programme.

Cllr Carole Pattison of Kirklees Council.

However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February appeared to eclipse the collapse of the Afghan government in Kabul and the resulting displacement of people by the Taliban.

Afghan refugees arrived in the UK on two different government schemes: the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme, which was launched on 1 April 2021 and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) launched on 6 January this year.

Now Kirklees Council has confirmed that it has welcomed five families on the ARAP scheme and three more on the ACRS scheme, which prioritises certain groups including those who have assisted the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights and freedom of speech, rule of law as well as vulnerable people and members of minority groups.

ARAP is available to people regardless of rank or role, or length of time served. The council said the time that people have been in Kirklees “differs from family to family” and is dependent on what government scheme they arrived on.

People in both schemes will receive immediate indefinite leave to remain in the UK, or if previously admitted with limited leave to remain will be immediately eligible to apply for indefinite leave.

A council spokesperson said: “The government’s Afghan relocation schemes provide support for three years after which the Afghan refugees will decide if they stay in Kirklees. We do not have any Afghan refugees in hotel accommodation in Kirklees.”

Last September Cllr Pattison spoke of local people “offering up rooms in their own homes” along with landlords with empty properties “contacting us to help”.

She said the district was already helping people who worked alongside the armed forces in Afghanistan and who were moved out because their lives were deemed to be at serious risk.

They committed to accept 50 people and would receive £1,026,000 in government cash to relocate them. However, the number of arrivals could potentially increase to 79 under what the government described as a council’s “minimum fair share allocation”.

Last November the council said it was holding nine of its own properties to be prepared for families, plus one property in the “limited pool” available from registered providers. It was also “exploring offers” from the private sector.

It said identifying suitable homes and making them ready for people to move in was “a pressure point”.

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