Friday, 31 January 2014

Afghans could find safety in North Ayrshire

Afghan nationals who have worked with the British Army in war-torn Helmand Province could find a new home in North Ayrshire.

With UK forces due to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year, the British Government has announced a resettlement scheme for interpreters who assisted soldiers in the war against the Taliban.  North Ayrshire Council’s ruling SNP Cabinet is this week expected to give the green light to talks with the UK Home Office in relation to the possibility that some of the interpreters and their dependent families could be accommodated in the local area.

The interpreters are seen by many in Afghanistan as having ‘worked for the enemy’, which means their lives would be in danger if they remained in the country after British forces pull-out.  However, the resettlement scheme has attracted criticism from Human Rights organisations after the UK Government said only those who had served British forces for more than a year and had seen frontline service would qualify to be relocated.  the3towns understands around 600 Afghanis meet the criteria, but that a similar number will be left in Afghanistan to fend for themselves.   In addition, those who qualify are only to be allowed to bring with them their spouse and children under 18 years of age.  Any sons or daughters considered to be adults will be refused permission to enter the UK, despite the obvious threat to their safety arising from their parent having worked for the British Army.

The Tory-Lib Dem Government estimates the total number of Afghanis allowed to travel and be re-housed in the UK – interpreters and family members – will be between 2,400 and 3,600.

Meeting this week, North Ayrshire’s SNP councillors are expected to agree that the local authority’s Chief Executive should enter into discussions with officials from the UK Home Office regarding the number of Afghanis the Council may be able to accommodate.

A report for the SNP Cabinet suggests the Chief Executive should indicate to the UK Government that North Ayrshire Council’s shortage of one-bedroom properties – exacerbated by the Bedroom Tax – means the local authority would prefer “to accept families with children who would occupy larger properties...where there is less demand in some areas”.

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