Camden ready to welcome refugees from Afghanistan
A statement from Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of the Council, on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan:
It is devastating to see the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. We are concerned for the safety of all Afghan citizens and are particularly concerned about the safety and rights of women and girls. The Government must act quickly to ensure the safe and legal passage for those fleeing the Taliban and we stand ready in Camden to welcome refugees seeking safety.
Camden has a long and proud history of helping refugees, often stepping in where government has failed to take action. We will welcome families into our borough and give them the support and help they need to rebuild their lives.
We will work with all of our partners and local community organisations to offer the best help we can to families who find themselves in this desperate situation.
This is not a political issue; it is a humanitarian one that must have support from all political parties. We are working with the Government, all Councils across London and the Mayor of London to coordinate our response.
Camden’s commitment to refugees from Afghanistan
Camden has always been a place ready to welcome refugees – we are here to support people when they are at their most desperate, provide them with safety, shelter and the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
In the last decade Camden has stepped up to support those in need. For example:
- We welcomed 22 Syrian families – comprising 82 people – in 2016, initially the largest London response to the crisis in Syria.
- We welcomed 10 young people from camps in Calais into our care between October and December 2016.
- This is in addition to supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children that come into our care every year. We are currently supporting 52 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Camden.
We want to match these commitments this time – and offer a wraparound package of support to welcome and home refugees from Afghanistan working closely with central government, charities, communities, and specialist support agencies.
Camden’s support package for refugees from Afghanistan
We are clear that support needs to be ongoing and comprehensive in order to ensure refugees settle and get the support they need in Camden.
Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of the Council, has pledged to help Afghan refugees in Camden. The main elements of Camden’s support package will include:
- Housing: Our housing will offer covers both the initial emergency accommodation and longer-term housing for refugees.
- Food support: No-one arriving in Camden will go hungry.
- Health care: Refugees will receive the physical healthcare and mental health support they need.
- Education: We will ensure all refugee children are able to learn and develop in Camden.
In more detail, this will comprise of:
- We have identified five properties in Camden to house Afghan refugees and are working on securing more.
- There are six hotels in Camden which have previously been in place for asylum seekers and refugees that have arrived in the UK – the third highest out of boroughs in London.
- On arrival at the hotel, refugees receive information packs covering health, care and education, tailored to the immediate area in which the hotel is located. The packs provide information about a range of near-by services and support available.
- Financial support:
- We are working with community groups and foodbanks including QCCA, Castlehaven, Kentish Town Community Centre, Cooperation Kentish Town and Salvation Army to support refugees arriving at hotels with food and sanitary products.
- Health care:
- A pilot multi-disciplinary clinic for migrant families opened at the Prince of Wales Medical Centre in Kentish Town to support refugee families living in the hotels. The clinic includes GP, health visiting team and family early help.
- The homelessness health visiting team are also supporting hotel residents who are pregnant or who have recently given birth.
- Camden GPs will be supplied with the information packs.
- Schools who receive a significant demand for school places from newly arrived families will get specific support from our family early help team.
- We are already providing education for children and young people in the Camden hotels and will identify school places for school children coming from Afghanistan.
The team behind the support
A whole range of council services will be involved in ensuring refugees from Afghanistan have the support they need, these include:
- adults and children’s social care
- family support and early years services
- health visiting services,
- community safety
- housing needs
- Public Health
- schools and educational psychology
The council is meeting regularly with representatives from the Home Office, the Police and representatives from our community and voluntary sector to coordinate this support effort, share updates and review any issues which arise so these can be addressed promptly.
We held an emergency meeting of our Camden Faith Leaders Forum on Thursday 2 September and we are organising a briefing session, in partnership with Voluntary Action Camden, for VCS organisations to find out more about the situation and Camden's response. This will be held on Wednesday 8 September 12-1pm. Please sign-up here.
Information for voluntary, faith and community organisations
We know many of our voluntary, faith and community organisations and members of the public want to know what they can do to support refugees from Afghanistan arriving in London.
At the moment most refugees are in hotels managed by central Government – either in quarantine or in hotels where their housing and wider support needs are being assessed. We are working with partners to provide donations and thanks to the generosity of community members, faith and voluntary sector organisations, we have been able to provide deliveries of religious items, activity packs for children, clothes, toys and nappies, as well as other essentials.
Immediate support needs are currently being met and we are working with several local organisations to be able to respond to emerging needs. However, this is a fast evolving situation and there may be a need for further support in the future. It is likely that there will be an increased demand for local services and community support, such as food banks, advice services as well as social activities and community connections.
Some organisations have chosen to fundraise for support for refugees, for example via Crowdfunder. As we don’t yet know exactly what will be needed in the longer-term, organising a fundraising campaign provides some flexibility to be able to respond to needs as they arise.
We can then work with voluntary, faith and community organisations at a later date to ensure this money is spent effectively and for the benefit of refugees in Camden.
We are also working in partnership with Care 4 Calais and the British Red Cross who are running national campaigns which people can donate to:
- Care 4 Calais drop off map (closest donation points are East London Mosque and Southwark)
- British Red Cross - Afghanistan Crisis Appeal
You can also donate to the London Refugee Response set up with leadership from the Mayor of London, London Councils and charitable funders from across London to give Londoners a way to provide much needed support to new arrivals from Afghanistan.