Leeds Council leader calls for Government guidance and help to support Afghan refugees

Leeds City Council’s leadership has finally broken its silence on the city’s efforts to help Afghan refugees fleeing to the UK.

By Richard Beecham
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 11:45 am

Since the Taliban’s takeover of the country nearly two weeks ago, no senior councillors from the authority’s ruling Labour group had officially spoken out on what the city would do to help and how many refugees would be taken in.

But a statement released today saw the leader of Leeds City Council has called on the city to do its bit, and for central Government to provide the support needed to help resettle refugees.

And, while the authority has still made no cast iron commitment to the numbers of families that will be helped, it is understood the council is awaiting further details from the Home Office.

British nationals and Afghan evacuees depart a flight from Afghanistan at RAF Brize Norton (Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire)

Coun James Lewis said: “Many people in Leeds have been saddened and shocked by the situation in Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan and with those Afghans who already call Leeds their home.

“Leeds has a long-held commitment to support asylum seekers and refugees. Leeds has previously helped support refugee resettlement programmes from countries including Syria, and continues to do so.

“We recognise and support the government’s commitment to resettlement and we ask that they make sure this is done fairly across the country with full resources to make sure every council and community does their bit and that after over a decade of austerity this isn’t another underfunded service.”

While it is not known how many refugees have yet been taken in by Leeds City Council, figures released last week suggested local authorities across Yorkshire had pledged to accept 50 to 70 extra families.

Leader of Leeds City Council James Lewis

But this was before the Home Office’s announcement last Tuesday that the UK was prepared to welcome 10,000 Afghan refugees during this year, and a total of 20,000 “in the long term”.

Coun Mary Harland, the authority’s executive member for communities, said more information was needed on these commitments, and how councils would be able to implement them.

She said: “As a compassionate city we are already working alongside other councils across the region as part of the current Afghan relocation scheme, coordinated by Migration Yorkshire, and we will consider the government’s proposals when further details of these are announced.

“We will play our part and do everything we can to support evacuations from Afghanistan and will continue to work with partners to ensure that new arrivals are made to feel welcome as they start to build their lives here.”

The Home Office has been contacted for a comment.

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