Afghan refugee resettlement 'must be done fairly across the country', says Leeds council leader

Resettling Afghan refugees must be done “fairly across the country” with full resources provided to councils, Leeds City Council leader James Lewis has said.

Leeds City Council leader James Lewis. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Coun 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.

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“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.

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.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK Government will always stand by those fleeing persecution or oppression in their hour of need, which is why thousands of Afghans most in need will be welcomed to the UK through one of our most ambitious ever resettlement schemes.

“Each and every day we work closely with local authorities across the United Kingdom to ensure suitable accommodation and support is in place for those seeking asylum or resettlement in the UK.

“We are grateful to all local authorities who currently support and would encourage all local authorities to come forward and offer further assistance to these vulnerable people. Dedicated civil servants continue to work round the clock with local authorities to ensure those arriving in the UK have the accommodation and assistance they deserve.”

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