September 27, 2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

SWANSEA, Carmarthenshire and Neath Port Talbot councils are taking in refugee families from Afghanistan, and could accept more further down the line.

Carmarthenshire Council’s housing department has already found somewhere to live for three families.

Swansea Council said its three families were arriving this month.

Neighbouring Neath Port Talbot Council is offering assistance to three families initially, then another two.

The Taliban took full control of Afghanistan in just 10 days following the departure of international forces in June, although the hardline group already controlled large parts of the country.

Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said: “I don’t think anyone who has seen the terrible scenes unfolding in Afghanistan this week could be anything but upset or distressed.
“The pictures of families in sheer terror as they face the prospect of once again living under the Taliban, whose previous brutal regime we should remember, had denied women even basic rights, and had fostered the Al-Qaeda terrorist network that killed thousands of innocent people across the world.”
The Swansea Labour leader said he felt the Afghan people must feel “abandoned and betrayed”, having been given hope for a better future by the West.
He added: “As the first City of Sanctuary in Wales, Swansea will once again step up to play its part, along with councils across Wales and the Welsh Government. We will offer safety and refuge for some of the people now forced to leave Afghanistan or face persecution or even execution.
“We initially responded some weeks ago to a request from UK Government  -this was prior to the current humanitarian crisis – and confirmed we would support the Afghan refugee resettlement scheme.
“As a result we will be welcoming three families from Afghanistan this month.
“Clearly the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated dramatically since then and we have made it clear we will do all we can to support further refugees in the coming weeks and months, including those Afghans who have supported and assisted our brave service men and women during their time in Afghanistan.
“For those who may question why we are helping I want to make it clear this will not be instead of our continued efforts to provide homes for people who live in Swansea or for people who are homeless. It will be in addition to these efforts.
“Our commitment to continue to build more affordable homes and more social housing for the people of Swansea will continue.”

The country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, has fled, and thousands of people who fear persecution are desperate to leave.

The predicament is especially dire for Afghan interpreters who have helped Western forces.

A priority relocation policy was launched in April for current or former Afghan interpreters and other personnel who worked with the UK and were considered to be under serious threat. Some 2,000 Afghan staff have been resettled in the UK since June.

Ministers said they expected 5,000 Afghans to relocate this year under this scheme, rising to 20,000 in the long term.

A Swansea Council spokesman said: “Swansea has already committed to assisting families from Afghanistan.

“We are welcoming three families this month and are looking to welcome more.”

Carmarthenshire Council said its current commitment of three families could change.

MPs meanwhile have asked for councils to get extra funding to resettle fleeing Afghans.

The crisis was debated in the House of Commons on August 18.

Some Conservative MPs put Boris Johnson under the spotlight, with his predecessor Theresa May saying it was “incomprehensible” that the UK was not doing more.

Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed the Prime Minister had shown “staggering complacency,” but Mr Johnson said the UK would honour its “enduring commitment” to the Afghan people.

UK aid funding for Afghanistan is to double to £286 million.

The Taliban, which ruled the country in the 1990s, sought to strike a conciliatory tone in a press conference this week, saying for example that women’s rights would be respected within the framework of Islamic law.

Andrew Morgan, leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), which represents the country’s 22 councils, said it was important that local authorities played their part in resettling refugees.

“If we all sign up to this, we’re talking less than a handful of families actually per local authority area, so the numbers are actually very, very small,” he told BBC Wales.

“The alternative is that these people, quite frankly, could be persecuted in the next couple of weeks if we don’t help them.

“I wouldn’t want it on my conscience that we see in a month’s time that a number of individuals and families are being killed in Afghanistan when we had the opportunity to help them come here.”

Councils in Wales took in a number of Syrian refugees as years of civil war ravaged the Middle Eastern country.

The Welsh Government said it was working with councils to help find homes for people fleeing the situation in Afghanistan.

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