Local councils provide safe harbour for Afghan support staff

WOKING and Surrey Heath borough councils are providing homes for Afghans who have supported British forces and their families.

They are responding to the Government’s pledge to relocate staff who were employed by the military and risk persecution or death at the hands of Taliban insurgents.

An Afghan refugee with her child

The Government is launching a citizens’ resettlement scheme for up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans who have been forced to flee their country.

Woking has not committed to taking in a particular number of refugees but is seeking to rent three and four-bedroom homes. Surrey Heath is asking its housing association to provide temporary furnished accommodation.

In Woking, under the Let’s Rent scheme, landlords of suitable vacant or soon-to-be vacant properties are asked to urgently contact the council.

The scheme offers a choice of free management services, with additional benefits including a cash incentive and financial bond, preparation of tenancy documents, annual gas and electrical inspections, regular property inspections and a rent guarantee.

Five Afghan families will be housed in Surrey Heath. Two have arrived and the others will be in their new homes shortly.

All the families will be supported for a set period by the local authorities, with help in settling in and starting new lives in the UK. This includes advice and assistance covering employment, welfare benefits, housing, health, education and applications for UK citizenship.

Woking Borough Council’s leader, Cllr Ayesha Azad, said: “Woking residents have a long history of welcoming people from all walks of life, of every nationality, belief and background.

“We recently resettled 50 Syrian refugee families under another government scheme and are now set to assist Afghans who have supported the UK military in Afghanistan, while putting themselves and their families at considerable risk.

“We want to ensure we are ready to play our part in offering support to those fleeing violence, which is why we are urging landlords to come forward now.”

Surrey Heath’s portfolio holder for support and safeguarding, Cllr Shaun Garrett, commented: “Local staff have been supporting the British Forces in Afghanistan in a variety of roles since 2013.

“Our area has a proud military heritage, and we are pleased to be able to offer support to families who have played an important part in assisting our troops.”

Landlords who have suitable properties for the Woking initiative are urged to get in touch with the council’s private sector housing team by calling 01483 743 836 or emailing lets.rent@woking.gov.uk.

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