- The welcome the Afghan families have received and the donations from communities across the UK has been staggering - thank you.
- Many of the families now have many of the basics, and do not need continued donations of general goods.
- Please consider making financial donations to organisations that will continue to support these families as they integrate into society.
- If you'd still like to help you can monitor the social media pages of local charities/voluntary groups, who will request specific items as and when needed. Please ensure any items donated in response to a specific request are new or nearly new, clean, complete and in the same condition you would like to receive them.
Cheshire West and Chester Council is committed to playing its part in providing safety and shelter for people fleeing the current crisis in Afghanistan.
The borough has a proud history of welcoming refugees and others seeking sanctuary and has an established framework in place, which has seen over 20 refugee families from Syria successfully resettled in Cheshire West and Chester over the last five years. The Council will work with its partners through this established framework to provide the support that families fleeing Afghanistan may need.
Many families have already been evacuated and are being accommodated in hotels in the UK by the Government; these are largely people and their families who have assisted UK troops in Afghanistan as interpreters or in other support roles, who are being resettled under the Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation scheme.
The Government has also announced its intention to create a bespoke Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, to resettle up to 20,000 of the most vulnerable people wishing to leave the country, including women and girls. The full details of this scheme have not yet been announced.
The Council is very grateful to the many local people and voluntary, community and faith organisations that have already offered to provide help and support for refugees from Afghanistan.
At this point in time, we are not looking for donations of items, offers of rooms or other accommodation, or for volunteers. However, if you do have specific skills you think would be of use, such as relevant language skills and would like to offer help with informal English learning, please register your interest here. We are using this service to manage the high number of offers of support we are currently receiving.
If you would like to support refugees, please consider making a financial donation to one of the established local charities that work with refugees and other vulnerable groups in the borough or a national charity such as the Red Cross or the Refugee Council. We would also recommend that you monitor the social media pages of local charities, where they will request specific items as and when needed:
- Cheshire West Voluntary Action
- Share Shop
- Care UK
- Salvation Army
- Chester City of Sanctuary
- Red Cross
- Refugee Council
- Refugee Action
The refugees hosted by the Council will all be families, but if you do have a spare room in your home, you might like to consider hosting a refugee via a charity called Refugees At Home.
If you have a property available to rent, you might like to consider offering it to the Council's housing team, who help vulnerable people, including newly granted refugees, to secure permanent accommodation. Contact the Housing Strategy team for further information.
Alternatively, the Government has launched an online portal for people or organisations wishing to offer anything from a single dwelling to a portfolio of properties (but not spare rooms) to accommodate people arriving from Afghanistan.
If you would like to offer to foster any of the children and young people who need care in the borough, the collaborative fostering service for Cheshire, Halton and Warrington can be contacted on:
- Telephone: 01925 444100
- Foster4 website
The situation in Afghanistan has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, the scale of which has not been seen since the Syrian refugee crisis. Councils across the country have been asked by Government to play their part in resettling vulnerable refugees fleeing Afghanistan and Cheshire West and Chester Councillors agreed that it is only right that the borough should play its part in offering safety and shelter to the families affected.
The borough has a history of welcoming vulnerable refugees and had already pledged to resettle three families in the first year of the new national refugee resettlement scheme but, given the urgency of the situation in Afghanistan, the Government asked local authorities to convert these pledges to settle Afghan families instead, which Councillors agreed to as well as agreeing to increase our pledge.
The Government is providing funding for the programme, which will cover the costs of providing furnished accommodation and a range of assistance including integration support and English language lessons for the families.
Councillors have agreed that up to six refugee families will be resettled in the borough initially, equating to around 30 individuals, as part of a wider commitment across Cheshire.
These places will be filled by families that have already travelled to the UK under the Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation scheme. Once we have further details of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, a decision will be made as to whether to resettle more families, taking into consideration the wider implications for service provision and potential resource requirements.
As well as accommodation, the families will need to be provided with intensive support during the first few months, which is why we would only consider resettling a relatively small number at any one time. There is also an impact on other services too; for example, children will need to access school places and the families will need to be registered with a GP and dentist etc, so we do need to take this into account, as we don't want to overwhelm staff or partners.
Refugees will initially come from quarantine hotels or bridging hotels in the UK being provided by the Government. All refugees from Afghanistan will need to quarantine on arrival in the UK and will need to take PCR tests. Support workers will work with the local NHS, GPs and the Council's Public Health team to ensure that they have access to health screening and COVID vaccinations when they reach the borough.
We are working with our social landlord partners to identify suitable homes to accommodate the refugee families. We are not looking for offers of private sector accommodation at this time, as social housing is considered to be more sustainable, offering long term security of tenure and affordability. As we will only be housing families, we are also not looking for offers of spare rooms in people's homes.
The number of families to be resettled in the borough is relatively small so we anticipate that there will be little or no impact on anyone seeking to access social housing in the borough.
All local authorities have a statutory duty towards homeless people. As part of this duty, the Council offers housing options advice and support to anyone, including providing temporary accommodation for those that meet the standard eligibility criteria. We also have a robust homelessness strategy and work with a range of organisations to prevent homelessness in the borough. This will not change.
Refugees are legally entitled to be here and have the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen living in the borough. This includes the right to work and to claim benefits, subject to the same eligibility criteria as any other resident.
There is a separate scheme for supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children in the UK. The North West Regional Strategic Migration Partnership has worked closely with local authorities in the North West and with the Association of Directors of Children's Services to develop a co-ordinated regional approach to resettling unaccompanied minors and the Council has signed up to play its part under this programme. Anyone wishing to offer to foster a child should contact the pan-Cheshire fostering service for Cheshire, Halton and Warrington on:
- Telephone: 01925 444100
- Foster4 website
Refugees are subject to stringent security checks before entering the UK. Families resettled under the Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation scheme will be subject to records checks by the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office works closely with the UNHCR, which has its own robust identification processes in place, including biometrics, documentary evidence of identity and a rigorous interview process. The UK Government retains the right to reject individuals on the grounds of security where there is insufficient information or evidence available to undertake effective screening.