Moray Council has agreed to the settlement of 20 Afghan refugees, whom we hope will eventually want to make their permanent home here. After the trauma of what they have been through, families will need space and time to adjust. The best thing we can do as a council and a community is to be friendly and supportive whilst they settle into a new environment.
A dedicated resettlement team is to be temporarily set up to help with the support and wellbeing of the Afghan families and to make them feel very welcome to the Moray area. Funding from the UK Government is available for 12 months to local authorities that provide a package of intensive support to individuals or families, following which self-sufficiency is the intended outcome. The package is to support accommodation set up, rent and other housing-related costs, together with funding for the delivery of integration support which covers a range of areas – including advice and education services for school-aged children. The offer will also be enhanced through additional central government integration support, including an online welcome pack for all new arrivals and local engagement networks for participating local authorities to share information and resources.
The most pressing need will be to secure three to four-bedroom housing for larger families given the household sizes. Initial contact has been made with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) regarding service accommodation in the areas which are understood to be vacant and would meet the needs of larger families. The intention would be for the council, subject to agreement with the MOD, to lease the properties for a minimum period of two years in order to sublet them to families.
There have already been multiple offers of help and support for the Afghan refugees from many individuals and groups in and around Moray who are willing to support the refuge families. Due to the horrendous circumstances, they have had to leave their homeland with nothing at all and donations of clothing, toys and household articles have already been collected so they can feel comfortable and secure in their new homes.
This is the start of the process for the Afghan refugees, we will be able to duplicate and learn from 2016 when Moray Council responded to an urgent request from the UK Government to assist Syrian refugees. As a result, the council committed to resettling seven families with continued support over the past five years. Most recently six out of seven families have been supported to complete their “leave to remain” application, which allows permanent residency in the UK. We would hope that this would be a similar outcome and that some of the Afghan refugees would also want to stay and work in Moray.
As a councillor of Moray Council, I want to say that, we as a council are ready to welcome the Afghan families to Moray and look forward to helping them in any way we can and I am sure everyone in Moray will also be welcoming and supportive to these families.