Afghan families who worked for British military to be resettled in Harrogate district
Afghan families who worked for the British military are to be resettled in Harrogate to start new lives this summer.
Up to four families totalling 19 people will be flown to the district in the coming months as fears for their safety grows with international troops preparing to leave the country.
On the flight will be mostly former translators, their families and others whose lives are under threat because they worked for the British government during the two decades that the UK military has been fighting in Afghanistan.
A decision to welcome the families was agreed by Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet last night when Madeleine Bell, head of housing and property, said the authority had asked to take part in the relocation scheme which is now being accelerated as the security situation in Afghanistan worsens.
She said: "Since 2013 the government has had a programme of resettling locally employed Afghans who have worked with British armed forces. Due to changes in the international presence in Afghanistan, this programme has now been accelerated and it has become urgent that Afghans who have worked with our armed forces together with their families are brought to this country for their own safety.
"We have asked to be part of this scheme and have provisionally agreed to accept three or four families, although of course we stand ready to accept larger numbers if we are asked to do so."
The Harrogate district has previously taken part in other resettlement programmes, including welcoming 13 Syrian families between 2016 and 2017.
Councillor Mike Chambers, cabinet member for housing and safer communities at the council, said the families are not only offered a place to live, but also given opportunities to go to school, learn English and find employment.
He said: "This district has a long and proud history of taking in people who are in need, people who are in distress and people who need shelter.
"It is clear that we need to play a part in ensuring that these people are brought to a place of safety and given every opportunity to move on.
"It means a great deal to people that we show compassion and care, and that we play our part in ensuring these people are given every opportunity to live in a place of safety."
Nationally, more than 3,000 Afghans are expected to be allowed to settle in the UK, joining 1,300 who have already done so.
A large number of translators were not eligible under a previous relocation scheme which considered an applicant's role and length of service.
But now any current or former locally-employed staff deemed to be under serious threat will be offered priority, regardless of their employment status, role, rank or length of service.
Announcing the acceleration of the scheme last month, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "As we withdraw our Armed Forces, it is only right we accelerate the relocation of those who may be at risk of reprisals. Nobody's life should be put at risk because they supported the UK Government to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.
"We are doing everything to make sure we recognise their services and bring them to safety."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter