First Afghan refugees arrive in Hertfordshire for a new life
The first Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban have arrived in Hertfordshire, the county council has confirmed.
According to the authority, "a number of these individuals and families have arrived and are being housed in three hotels in the county" while they wait for permanent homes across the UK.
The British Red Cross is providing initial 'crisis' support with the help of the voluntary sector, and the council is co-ordinating efforts to meet the longer-term needs of arrivals.
That includes establishing a formal process for donations and help, planning direct provision of education, supporting the NHS to arrange immediate healthcare, and working alongside district and borough councils to review available housing and support the hotels providing refugee accommodation.
The authority's Conservative leader, Cllr Richard Roberts, said: "The people of Hertfordshire already have shown incredible generosity in response to the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and we have been overwhelmed with offers to support those arriving in the county.
"Currently, the operation is being led by the British Red Cross, which is working closely with those families who have already arrived to meet their needs, as well as preparing to welcome others in the coming days and weeks.
"A significant number of donations of clothes, toiletries and toys have very generously been donated, and we are working alongside the Red Cross to manage what has already been received.
"We are now asking that no further donations are made at this time as we work to understand the need of those who have already arrived.
"As a county council, we are also working closely with our local partners to ensure that the appropriate support is available to those who need it, including provision for medical and social care, access to education and additional support where needed.
"I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who has so enthusiastically offered support to ensure the families feel welcome and settle well in this next chapter of their lives."
An East Herts Council spokeswoman said: "We are in ongoing discussions with the Home Office and our partners with a view to being able to support the placement of refugee families from the end of September/early October. Our team are working closely with housing providers to discuss the potential of making homes available."
In Uttlesford, Liberal Democrat members of the district council have called on the authority to volunteer to house refugees.
Their leader, Stansted's Cllr Melvin Caton, said: "Uttlesford has welcomed a number of Syrian families to the district in recent years following the civil war in that country. We should do the same for refugees that are fleeing their homes or face threats of persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan."
The council issued a statement on its website: "We have great sympathy for refugees from the conflict in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We'll be working closely with Essex County Council and other agencies to accommodate and support refugees who may be resettled in Essex.
"This is an emerging situation which we will need to respond to. A package of suitable self-contained housing, school places, primary health care and other support is being pulled together in preparation for those refugees who may be referred to us by the Home Office for resettlement in Essex."
Bishop's Stortford's Tory MP Julie Marson has urged her constituents to welcome refugees.