Ely Supports Afghan Refugees

A statement from Ely Amnesty International

Amnesty International UK has been urging the UK Government to ensure that the UK’s resettlement scheme (ACRS) is quickly established and implemented. The UK Government has launched ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ and Home Secretary Priti Patel says ‘I am committed to providing refugees who make their home here the ability to rebuild their lives in the UK with essential support to integrate into the community, learn English, and become self-sufficient. By providing immediate indefinite leave to remain we are ensuring that those who have fled their homes have every opportunity to look to the future with stability and security and make a success of their new life in the UK.’

Amnesty International Ely City Group feels strongly that we must all play our part in offering a welcome to the desperate Afghans who have fled the Taliban and now seek to build a new life outside their country in the UK. We hope and expect that ECDC will want to extend a welcome to some of these families.

We strongly supported ERRC when they took on two refugee Syrian families through Cambridge Council. ERRC has now built up a wealth of experience in providing community support and it would seem common sense for ECDC to draw on these experiences when welcoming Afghan families to our area. For our part, the Ely City Amnesty Group will do everything we can to support ERRC in such an endeavour.

A statement from St Mary’s Church

St Mary’s Church welcomes the possibility of some Afghan refugee families settling in Ely and we would want to join with partner organisations in helping to facilitate this. It is important that all areas of the UK play their part in this vital initiative.

Rev. Chris Hill, St Mary’s Ely

A statement from Countess Free Church

Countess Free Church in Ely seeks to build community and meet the needs of others, extending a welcome to all people. We will work with local agencies to support those displaced from their homeland in desperate circumstances. We therefore encourage the local council(s) at all levels to welcome Afghan refugees in making their home in Ely. With many others we join the voice of Ely Refugee Resettlement Campaign to make this welcome a reality.

A letter from the church leaders in Ely to the Local Council

Dear Council leaders,

We are grateful for all the work that you have done for our local communities across the nation during the global pandemic. You had our back and we are so thankful to you and your staff for their service during these times. Now we are facing another global crisis.

Like you, our hearts were moved by the sight of thousands of people desperate to leave Afghanistan. We, as your local residents and constituents, would like to encourage you to respond positively to the Home Office’s request for offers of hospitality to Afghan refugees. There are approximately 8000 Afghani refugees in our country under the Government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme, currently living in hotel accommodation. This is temporary and costly, unsuitable for everyone involved.

We encourage your Local Authority to offer 10 families refuge.

If every Local Authority offered this many places we could ensure that every Afghan family gets a safe place to live. It also provides the opportunity for moving and matching; if people have family connections in a certain region they can be reunited. We recognise in some locations, this will require counties and districts to work together. We hope that this can be a community-wide response, with many institutions and organisations coming together for the common good.

We do not ask you to do this without also offering our support. Hundreds of churches, associations and charities across the nation have already been serving newly-arrived Afghans in the bridging hotels. Through partners such as Baby Basics, we have sourced over 33 000 items of brand-new essentials for mothers and children and offered friendship to newly-arrived families as they wait for a permanent home. We have started childcare, sports and skills-to-work programmes. We stand ready to offer those same services and more through our partner Welcome Churches, a network of hundreds of groups across the UK that have trained and experienced volunteers ready to go.

We can help you find the housing that you pledge. Already many projects are emerging where associations and individuals will buy houses and make them available to the Local Authority to rent. A recent seminar with the National Residential Landlords Association booked over 500 tickets within 24 hours. The interest is there but we cannot act until our Local Authorities make the pledge. We ask you to respond positively to the Government’s request for offers to house refugees. Along with you, we will continue to press the Government for clarity regarding financing and ongoing support.

We do this because we are compelled to show the love of God to people in need. This is for everyone. Our interest is not just Afghan refugees but all vulnerable people that need help. We recognise that you already serve many vulnerable groups in lots of ways – including asylum seekers, other migrant communities and many others. We stand ready to offer you our assistance here as well. Thank you so much for considering this request. We are alongside you in welcoming our new friends and neighbours through this scheme.

We have your back so you can have theirs.

On behalf of Afghan Welcome and churches across the nation.