Help is at hand for 'traumatised' Afghan refugees as they begin a new life
Afghan families quarantining at Stansted Airport hotels are suffering "significant levels of trauma" following their experiences fleeing from the Taliban.
Young children had arrived with physical injuries while many had been left deeply scarred by their escape, according to Stansted's Essex county councillor Ray Gooding, who has been following their progress since they began arriving in the UK last month.
He said that Essex County Council (ECC) was working with the British Red Cross and health professionals to ensure that families received the support and care they needed during their rehabilitation.
"There are quite significant numbers of families still quarantining at three hotels in this area with quite a number of children who are physically injured as a result of getting out of Afghanistan, and there are significant levels of trauma both in children and adults," Cllr Gooding told a meeting of Stansted Parish Council last Wednesday (Sept 8).
"Our big concern is for the children and how long they'll be there for as we need to find them educational places. It will be a difficult task, but I will keep you updated on our progress."
He praised the community's efforts in donating items for the refugees. ECC said residents across the county had contributed to an "incredible response".
Collections have now been paused following the appeal's success. This includes donation centres at TouchPoint in Stansted and Dunmow's Uttlesford Community Hub.
As part of the Government's emergency response following the evacuations from Afghanistan, refugees were placed in hotels. Stansted's Radisson Blu and Novotel were previously named as quarantine centres while the Ibis Budget hotel near Birchanger is also believed to be housing Afghans.
ECC stressed that help was being provided for the families. "While they are living in the hotels, access to health and care support from the county council and the NHS is being made available to them," said a spokesperson.
Local GPs had been offering their support to deal with immediate health needs.
And work is under way to move those who have completed their quarantine on to 'bridging accommodation' while permanent homes are found. Essex has established a new task force to source suitable and sustainable housing.
Cllr Kevin Bentley, leader of ECC, who chairs the task force, said: "All our hearts went out to individuals and families arriving from Afghanistan. We're doing everything in our power to support them as they start to adjust to new and unfamiliar surroundings.
"The compassion and willingness to help we have seen from residents across Essex has been overwhelming and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed.
"Now, every one of us as council leaders has committed to making sure we provide all the help and support we can to the Afghan families who risked so much to help British forces in their home country.
"Providing that support is complicated, but the Team Essex providing health, social care, education and housing are already working with families to ensure they get the best possible start to life in the UK.
"We know that housing will be a challenge, given the nature of the market here, but if each local authority area sourced just a handful of homes, we will have met the need. We already have the commitment of the Government to help meet the funding required in a part of the country where housing is not cheap.
"Private landlords have already contacted us, and the first families have already moved to their new homes, so we now need to build on that start, and that is what the task force will help us do."