Harlow Council won’t offer “refuge” for people leaving Afghanistan

General / Wed 18th Aug 2021 at 10:34am

MORE Essex districts say they will accept Afghan families fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan but not Harlow.

Thurrock Council has written to the Home Office offering to take part in the resettlement programme, while Basildon, Braintree and Rochford councils are identifying suitable housing.

Around 80 Afghan interpreters and their families have already arrived in Colchester and Chelmsford.

The Government says it will resettle 5,000 refugees nationwide by the end of 2021 and 20,000 over five years.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We are working with the Home Office and partner councils in Essex to support a number of former Afghan interpreters resettling in the UK.

“Alongside our partners our aim is to enable and support these people and their families to access the services they need to help them integrate into the local community.

“These individuals have risked their lives helping to support the efforts of our forces in Afghanistan and we are pleased to help them start to rebuild their lives in the UK.”

Thurrock Council says it has already written to the Government asking to accept more refugees.

A spokesperson said: “Thurrock Council has written to Her Majesty’s Government offering to take part in the Afghan Interpreter Resettlement program and we will continue to work with the Government to support any resettlement scheme that may come about following the situation in Afghanistan.”

Chelmsford City Council says it and Colchester have already accepted around 80 people.

Councillor Stephen Robinson, Leader of Chelmsford City Council, said, “The Home Office are relocating a number of Afghan interpreters and their families to Chelmsford and Colchester. Supporting them will be a coordinated effort led by the Home Office.

“These are people who have risked their lives in working with British forces and we welcome them with open arms after all that they have been through. We are advising the Home Office of private rented sector landlords who may be able to house them permanently.

“We are also keen to make links with the local community and are grateful to kind Chelmsford residents and groups who have offered help. Essex County Council is helping them register with schools.”

According to reporting by Essex Live, Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council Councillor Sue Lissimore said: “We are working with the Home Office, Essex County Council and Essex Integration to help a number of former Afghan interpreters and other skilled support staff and their families resettle in the UK.

“We will be supporting them to find accommodation (in the private rented sector) across Essex, linking them up with health and support services, etc and generally assisting them to integrate into the local community.

“These are professional people who have risked their lives helping to support our forces’ efforts in Afghanistan and we are pleased to help them start to rebuild their lives in the UK.”

Basildon Council, Braintree District Council and Rochford District Council said they supported efforts by the county council and are in the process of identifying suitable housing.

A Basildon Council spokesperson said: “The processing of refugees in the borough is managed by Essex County Council and supported by Basildon Council. Essex CC is currently identifying properties in the borough, and we will then inspect them to ensure the properties are up to a suitable standard.

“We will continue to work with Essex CC to provide the necessary support in these challenging circumstances.”

Councillor Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “We have already been working with partners as part of a coordinated response to make sure we can effectively and efficiently support any refugees that come to our district who need accommodation.

“We haven’t received any further requests for support from central government as of yet, however we are here to help if and when we are needed.”

A Rochford District Council spokesperson said: “Rochford District Council is already supporting efforts to provide a coordinated approach across Essex, as part of an ECC wide approach.

“ECC through their refugee resettlement programme manager is leading on liaising with government, providing support and working with housing authorities to offer accommodation.”

Harlow Council says it was approached to help resettle some of the first interpreters, but said does not have enough housing provision.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “At this stage we have not been approached to assist with taking in Afghan refugees following the developing humanitarian crisis.

“We were approached recently to assist with the relocation scheme for locally employed staff in Afghanistan who support the work of UK forces.

“Harlow has a history of welcoming refugees to the town through previous resettlement programmes, however, Harlow Council does not have any spare council housing available to support any programmes. We did suggest that the relocation programme could be supported by private sector housing in Harlow and this could support other programmes.

“However, there must be a coordinated approach across the UK so every area can help and it must be fully funded by the Home Office with specialist services in place to support those relocating. Moving to a new place in desperate circumstances poses huge challenges for those affected and local services.”

The Taliban re-captured Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on Sunday, causing the collapse of the western-backed government after twenty years.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres earlier warned “hundreds of thousands” of people are fleeing the situation in Afghanistan because of “serious human rights violations”, The Guardian reported.

Meanwhile, stories of terror continue to circulate from Afghanistan, especially among women who fear the return of the Taliban and their reign.

Tendring District Council and Castle Point Borough Council refused to comment.

Brentwood Borough Council, Uttlesford District Council, Epping Forest District Council and Maldon District Council were approached.

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30 Comments for Harlow Council won’t offer “refuge” for people leaving Afghanistan:

Jake Shepherd
2021-08-18 12:22:45

In 1570 Colchester welcomed Dutch refugees, fleeing persecution. In 1938 Jewish refugees arrived in Harwich as part of the Kinder-transport. We must play our part! Essex is a warm and compassionate county. Harlow was built from the ashes of war, and populated by a post-war generation who felt the terror of the blitzkrieg. We should know more than most in Essex why everyone deserves a fresh start free from war, terror and repression.

2021-08-18 12:33:04

I don't want a single one, I want houses for my family and grandkids. We are full up, no more in my humble opinion.

2021-08-18 12:34:51

Surely with the housing crisis where would these people go. We cannot even help our own citizens get housing with waiting lists going on forever.

2021-08-18 12:42:44

We don't want them my daughter is homeless cannot even get a property I'm fed up with all this house harlow born people first

2021-08-18 12:44:27

OK Jake, let's have a vote on it.

2021-08-18 12:51:38

Jake Shephard, the man who wanted to abolish the Burnt Mill Army Cadets, now pontificates on spending other tax payers’ money to house those whilst we have our own people waiting for housing and homeless ex-forces personnel. Totally out touch with reality. In cuckoo land!

2021-08-18 13:10:34

I see that the myth that "Britain is full" argument is trolled out once again. Britain isn’t that small. Great Britain is actually the ninth-largest island, and 13th-largest landmass, on the planet. Claiming this country is uniquely overcrowded is rubbish too. in descending order of population density, the United Kingdom (around 275 people per km²) comes somewhere in the early 30s, not even in the top 10. Japan (333 people per km²), Belgium (376) and the Netherlands (421) are more densly populated. The blame for homelessness and expensive housing does not lay with migrants, or with children as yet unborn: it lies squarely with the government that has been in power for ten, long years. I welcome any Afgans escaping persecution and death. They could be in temporary housed in Occasio House - but they can't because that has been left empty too long. Another failed policy. They could be house in the Strawberry Star and other similar developments, if they have been built yet and if they were "affordable". Which they are not. Another failed policy.

2021-08-18 13:19:33

OK, so far we can let two families in, Jakes house and JDs too. Any more offers?

Peter Sitton
2021-08-18 13:41:26

JD, if we have a housing waiting list, that means we do not have available houses. If the properties you mention were available then they should go to Harlow families, not outsiders. It is getting to a stage where we are becoming a dumping ground. Afghanistan has always been a mess. However, I accept some obligation towards those that helped our Armed Forces only. There are other less populated parts of the UK to send them. As a general rule we need to stop all bogus economic refugees from entry and deport all illegals here. These people have to sort out their own countries. We have our own issues as priorities we are not a dumping ground fora sundry. People are getting fed up and angry. This government said they would protect our borders and stop this abuse. About time they got on with the job!

gary roberts
2021-08-18 13:50:08

This issue goes beyond housing some people from Afghanistan but goes to the core of our values and obligations under NATO and the United Nations and sadly the consequences for people on this island in the future could mean terrorism returning to our streets because of the decisions of our goverment today. Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat made a fantastic, compassionate and emotional speech in parliament today and I would suggest you listen to it before using the little Britain argument. If not for you but for the future of your children and grandchildren.

Tony Durcan
2021-08-18 14:28:49

We should welcome the commitment made by other councils in Essex to help these people who were at the front supporting and helping to maintain peace and dignity. It’s only right that we should all provide a hand of friendship and if that means short term accommodation then this is the right thing to do. Very sad but not surprised that at this moment of need the Tory council has declined to offer any support except refer them to the private sector. This should never be about were people are from but more about humanity. We are gifted to live in a democracy but this isn’t an exclusive club . It’s a shameful day for Harlow that we turn away and ignore the need of others. If others can we should If we can’t we should fund other who can. Doing nothing is terrible. I guess that the difference between us but sad that someone who has already suffered remains the victim.

2021-08-18 14:51:51

I am 63, got 4 kids, all work , none were given a council house. My family have had to move 100 miles away to afford private rent. How about showing some dignity to us and stop pushing outsiders ahead of us. Yes Tony, beautiful words, they mean nothing to me. (And many others).

Paul Henderson
2021-08-18 15:09:06

Mr Durcan, you know full well ‘short-term’ invariably becomes permanent. It is all very well for you to harp on pretentiously about ‘humanity’, but the Council is right to point out that we do not have any available council housing ( you should know as you were in the administration for the past 10 years). Yes, we are gifted living a democracy that previous generations fought to establish and defend. You are wrong: democracy is a pretty exclusive club if you care to check the ‘EIU Democracy Index’ and ‘Transparency International’. If the highly trained and well-equipped Afghan forces are unwilling to fight to defend their ‘emergent democracy’, then why should we send our troops to fight and die. We have expended too much life and resources on corrupt, incorrigible, failed states. Afghanistan has never been stable: it comprises more than 14 ethnic groups, largely tribal. It is not known as the “Grave of Empires” for nothing. It was basically a buffer between the competing Russian and British Empires in the 19th century. For much of their history they have happily been fighting each other, sometimes to genocidal levels. Democracy and the Rule of Law are completely alien concepts to them and most of that entire God forsaken region as well as most of Africa. We should never have intervened under the Bush/Blair agendas in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should now walk away and ensure minimal involvement going forward. They need to govern their own country. Henceforth security should be our prime concern, using intelligence and targeted drone attacks on any terrorist camps. The last thing we need is to risk the import of foreign jihadis to join the unspeakable home grown ones like the Begum creature. I think your outlook is far too simplistic and potentially dangerous to our national security. You also seem to fail to grasp the basic economics. Dealing with this scale of problem must be handled by Government, not small district councils.

Paul Henderson
2021-08-18 15:23:01

This was a NATO op and a number of NATO countries participated and should all shoulder the question of refugees. As far as the UK is concerned, we should only accept those who worked, e.g. as interpreters for the British forces. We are hearing how bad the Taliban treat women and girls. It is true, but we did not cause that nor do we practice that. Had we not intervened, they would have suffered 20 years of Taliban rule. If what we offered was so much better, why have they thrown in the towel so easily? Why is that not addressed? Maybe they don’t want western style democracy. If they did, they would fight as our country did in 1914-18, 1939-45 and in 1982 (against the vicious Argentine military dictatorship). Yes, Mr Durcan, democracy is a blessing: it often comes at a price.

Alison Davison
2021-08-18 16:00:28

I am relieved that Harlow have decided not to take any Afghans. We just don't have enough available housing for our own families. The waiting list has thousands on it and it is unfair when other Counties push there tenants on to us.

2021-08-18 16:57:33

JD, I see you conveniently left out France with 123 per Km.

Tony Edwards
2021-08-18 18:47:50

It would have been good to hear from Andrew Johnson how Harlow Council if only in a limited way could help. Even if it is not in a position to provide housing as Council leader he could for example have offered to work with the voluntary sector and other agencies to assist in fund raising and for the Council to be involved in ensuring displaced Afghans get the support they need in the event of some of them being placed with private landlords in our town. Yes the Government has the primary responsibility but local authorities must be prepared to be proactive in these tragic times.

2021-08-18 21:41:24

we should help but harlow council is right in saying there isnt any council housing available with thousands on the waiting list but does say the private sector might help, i can see a huge mess if private landlords start accepting afghans with the govermeant paying the rent bill, the tax payer will be footing the bill!!

2021-08-18 21:54:16

i have every sympathy for these poor people fleeing terror, the 600 people aboard the us airforce plane was very painful to watch, my father came to england via the The Kindertransport (Children's Transport) in 1939 from austria when he was five years old so i wouldnt be here today if he had never got on that train, so all you anti migrant people spare a thought please.

2021-08-19 04:21:52

John Bull, assuming every person fleeing persecution and threats of death from a war torn country that the UK and USA are responsible for does not mean every one of them hoping for a better life is an “islamic extremist”... what a racist and xenophobic view to have...

Djoran Maijker
2021-08-19 04:32:38

Paul Henderson what are you blabbering about? You say we should walk away and not intervene further then suggest use drones to attack any last remaining terrorised cell? Are you fantasising again? Seems so to me. Let me tel you, you won’t be able to use drones to target these guys - the Taliban are not the “goat farmers defending their own land” anymore?! They’re a sophisticated and semi-organised cell with the ability and power of modern weaponry, vehicles and of course support. These guys are not equipped with toys, they’re using weaponry with 7.62 rounds, our weaponry is standard 5.56, while still deadly - the impact from a 7.62 will drop any person in one to two rounds... they’ve got marksman that are capable of inflicting maximum damage with high powered sniper rifles (SVD’s, SKS and a whole host of other DMR’s they’ve obtained)... believe me, they’re more a threat today than they were 20 years ago, and there is no way that the coalition forces should just walk away and let this becoming a breeding ground for extremism and terror. The best method at this stage - while all of the high ranking officials and representatives of the Taliban are now out of hiding would be to launch a final ditch effort in bring them to their knees. We need a strike force to enter with specific ROE for and only for those who identity as Taliban. Then and only then can their country heal and recover from yet another failed state... and before you say I don’t know anything, let me tell you - I’ve spent 12 years in that country fighting alongside the US troops to help rebuild. I’ve trained those Afghans myself, only to watch about 7 years of training fall in an instant when an old enemy arched its back. Believe me, Afghanistan is not best let alone - it’s chaos out there, and it needs a calm and swift military response with an equally calm and collected clean up of the remnants of the Taliban.

2021-08-19 08:34:12

So because we have such a crap housing policy, not built homes, sold off Council houses and not used receipts to build thousands more and have monetized something that's a basic human right, a home, we rat out on people who we recruited to defend our country from attack. Torys are quite prepared to rubber stamp the private property developers drive to build 23000 homes at hggt for the rich escaping London, never intended for our local children and can't see beyond the speculators bottom line, private profit. This mess is the legacy we left in that region after the days of empire and the mess we left after www2. Meanwhile our failure encourages China and Russia extend their quest for global dominance. Who can trust global Britain now?

Paul Henderson
2021-08-19 11:23:01

Mr Novoman, 1. It may have escaped your attention that the right to buy has enabled millions of people to become homeowners and significantly boosted personal wealth, financial independence and a genuine stake in their communities. Furthermore, subsequent Labour governments have not sought to change this. 2. HGGT was signed up for by the previous Labour administration in Harlow and not the current administration. The homes will presumably be on the market available to all, not just people seeking to move from London. Nothing to stop Harlow homeowners selling to move to a new home. As for the mess in Afghanistan being a legacy of Empire and WW2, you really need to study some history. Afghanistan was never a British colony. It ethnic and tribal troubles go way back. It has never been a stable nation. In fact, given its more than 14 rival ethnic groups it is perhaps a misnomer to describe it as a nation.

Clark Renney
2021-08-19 12:43:01

Yesterday, I published on Facebook a picture of a statue called 'The Arrival', which stands outside Liverpool Street railway station in London, England. It is dedicated to the children of the 'Kindertransport' who, through the efforts of individuals, charities and eventually Government action, were rescued from the Nazis in the months leading up to the outbreakof the Second World War. Some 10,000, mainly Jewish children, often sent alone by families who would not survive the monstrous events that engulfed Europe shortly after, found safety as refugees in the United Kingdom. I have always been deeply moved by the statue, and another one inside the station called 'Für Das Kind' (For The Child). To be honest, I have never really understood the concept of Patriotism, but these statues, and this story, genuinely make me proud to be British. Honoured to be a citizen of a nation who extended her hand of love and welcome to those fleeing persecution, terror and death. I posted this because, in the wake of the disaster in Afghanistan, the narrative of the next few weeks will once again focus on migrants and refugees, as evidenced already by this feed. And once again the forces of the Far-Right and the media they own and control will tell you stories of how the challenges we face here at home are all the fault of a desperate, penniless, broken human being clinging to an inflatable boat in the English Channel, or falling to their deaths as, in unimaginable terror, they hold on to escaping aircraft. I hope, against all hope that the British people, and the people of Harlow, will not be fooled by these lies. I hope the British Government, and Harlow Council, will do all in their power to help the Afghan refugees. I hope that together, we will remember what truly defines a great nation. And I hope we can all be proud to be British...

gary roberts
2021-08-19 14:47:10

"It may have escaped your attention that the right to buy has enabled millions of people to become homeowners and significantly boosted personal wealth, financial independence and a genuine stake in their communities." Mr. Henderson, could you possibly give me some empirical evidence to support your claim regarding the "right to buy"? For example, how many of those that bought their council homes ended up in negative equity under Mrs. Thatcher?

Paul Henderson
2021-08-19 15:36:14

Gary Roberts, you seem to be clutching at straws. Negative equity is a temporary phenomenon that occurs when the level of debt incurred exceeds the market value of the asset that debt was used to purchase. In the case of those exercising the right to buy, negative equity would be cushioned by the substantial discount they received. Furthermore, a loss would only materialise if they sold when their debt exceeded the market price at the time of sale. As the cast majority purchased their homes to live in, fluctuations in prices is largely immaterial. People who bought their properties in Harlow around 1980 for around £5,000-£6,000 are now sitting on a property worth around £300-350,000. Not a bad return and something to leave their children or if downsized to support their retirement plans. It was such a wealth creator that no subsequent Labour government has ever changed it.

gary roberts
2021-08-19 16:25:22

"People who bought their properties in Harlow around 1980 for around £5,000-£6,000 are now sitting on a property worth around £300-350,000". In my last posting Mr. Henderson, I asked you to provide empirical evidence to support your "right to buy" claims: you have not done so. The quote above is just wrong. This is a debate you raised in your posting on this thread so perhaps instead of making derogative statements about grabbing at straws, please could you provide evidence to support your claims. I know well a number of tenants' that under this "right to buy" policy lost their homes under negative equity and the damage resulting from it lasting to this day. I was angry then and still angry today at how those tenants were treated. It changed their lives and the Conservatives under Thatcher just turned and walked away. It was disgusting and heartbreaking to see and I will never forget it!

Nicholas Taylor
2021-08-19 18:03:27

Paul and Gary .... The facts are these having worked in the House Sales and Welfare sections in Harlow back in the seventies and eighties: Harlow Council had schemes which saw houses sold in the sixties and seventies which pre-dated the Conservatives Right to Buy scheme and houses were sold for as little as £3000. These did not include any sort of discount. What actually happened after 1980 was that many tenants took on mortgages which they could hardly afford, despite the huge discounts and when interest rates rocketed to 15% many people across the country ended up loosing their homes. Negative equity may have been an issue in some cases such as in divorce cases and a home had to be sold but these were very few compared to those due to increases in mortgage rates.

2021-08-19 18:09:55

Harlow council don't have to join in as other councils dump there homeless here anyway so you can guarantee we will end up with some Harlow homes for Harlow residents

Paul Henderson
2021-08-19 18:19:40

Gary Roberts. I know a good number of people, including my own family and several of their neighbours who fit the example I posted above. Having negative equity per se does not cause a loss. What would cause a loss is becoming unemployed and being unable to pay the mortgage loan and the property being sold at below the loan rate. I know of at least two who leveraged their increased value properties to buy more for let. This has since developed into a standard lending business. These people have done very well and are now financially independent through their good investment and risk management. Good luck to them. If one continues to pay the mortgage this would be avoided. It is a question of timing and circumstance, nothing more. As with all economic endeavours, there are winners and losers: check any investment in shares, property, currencies, options, commodities, etc. At the end of the day, tough as it was, the people you knew made a conscious choice to exercise the right to buy in the hope of gain. Nobody forced them to. Some investments go wrong. If they had all made money, you would not be writing. One of my family has built up a portfolio of 9 properties. She had some really tough times after the 2008 crash trying to pay the mortgages when some had no tenants, but struggled through. Now she has positive cash flow and a sizeable capital gain on which, as and when realised, will be subject to some increased capital gains tax, which is fair.

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