Monmouthshire County Council has agreed to participate in a Home Office scheme to offer shelter and accommodation to Afghan nationals who have worked closely with British armed forces and as a result find themselves in danger of persecution.
The council’s cabinet members met yesterday (16th July) and approved a report recommending that individuals, mainly interpreters, and their immediate families be offered support. In doing so, the council joins other English and Scottish local authorities associated with the scheme.
The option of relocating to the UK will be offered to those who have put themselves in extreme peril while serving Her Majesty’s Government. Six hundred applicants are expected to qualify and relocation will take place in waves over two years from April 2014 to the end of 2015. As well as interpreters, applicants will include professionals employed in dentistry, medicine, engineering and IT.
While much of the finance for the scheme is provided by central government, local authorities will be expected to integrate new arrivals into the community. Councils will welcome the Afghan nationals as they land on British soil and provide accommodation for four months in private housing – funded by central government – followed by an optional six month tenancy. After this, new arrivals remaining in their lodgings will be expected to pay rent. Councils will also offer advice and assistance to cover employment, welfare benefits, housing, health, education and utility supplies as well as useful information on the local area.
The cabinet decision is in line with a move taken by the council in September 2012 to sign Monmouthshire’s Community Covenant to recognise the role of the armed forces and remember their sacrifices. The council’s Armed Forces Champion, County Councillor John Prosser said: “Support for the relocation of Afghan nationals who have worked alongside our armed forces is a natural extension of the commitment we made in the Covenant and we are pleased to play a part with other communities across the UK in welcoming them to our shores”.
Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Peter Fox added: “There is no doubt that these individuals have already displayed their loyalty and dedication to the British armed forces and to the country itself. Previous experience has shown that people settling here in similar circumstances have demonstrated their skills and commitment and develop into a valuable asset benefiting the whole community”.