Melton Council responds to concerns over support for Afghans
Melton Council has responded to concerns voiced by a councillor and several residents after it announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it would seek to find homes in the borough for two families fleeing Afghanistan.
The authority has pledged to support people who were helping British forces there but who are now in immediate danger with the country being overrun by the Taliban.
There has been widespread support among residents who have backed the council’s stance that the country has ‘a moral obligation’ to help those who have previously risked their lives to act as interpreters and translators for service personnel.
But some residents expressed serious misgivings about the move by posting comments on our Facebook page.
And Councillor Simon Lumley, member for Melton Newport ward, said he would not support council housing being offered to the people fleeing Afghanistan instead of homeless borough residents.
Councillor Lumley also wants the authority to ensure that none of those being rehomed pose a security threat.
In an email he sent to the council, and shared with the Melton Times, he said he supports helping those from overseas who have helped British armed forces but added: “We have to put our own constituents’ needs before non-Melton borough residents/family connections and overseas asylum seekers and migrants.”
He said he was ‘very concerned’ borough housing would be offered to the Afghans and that he was ‘very much against this’.
Councillor Lumley added: “Are we absolutely certain the processes and systems in place from the Home Office have correctly security vetted the persons that would come to our borough, and into the UK as a whole?
“This needs to include to make sure they are not a security or terrorism threat given the source of the country in question,”
In response to Councillor Lumley’s concerns, council leader, Joe Orson, told the Melton Times the authority would look to house the Afghans in privately-owned accommodation but that council housing may need to be used because of the speed at which they need to act.
He said the government would be funding the rehoming and not council taxpayers.
Councillor Orson said: “We will explore the use of private sector housing for the resettlement, but given the immediate need and need to work at pace, we may need to utilise council homes to meet our pledge to safely relocate two families.
“We will also work with the Ministry of Defence to identify homes in their ownership which could also be used.
“The cost of supporting the families will be met by the government and we have a responsibility to give them the best possible chance of relocating safely and successfully.”
He said council resources would not be impacted by the pledge to support the families coming in from Afghanistan and urged residents to make the new arrivals welcome in the borough.
“Over the last year, the council has provided tremendous support to vulnerable people in Melton, and those who are homeless and in priority need locally,” added Councillor Orson.
“This will continue and will be unaffected by our desire to also support our Afghan friends who have served and supported our armed forces so diligently for the last 20 years.
“We are committed to fulfilling both our homelessness duties and our moral obligation to assist in this humanitarian crisis to ensure that all households in need receive the help and support they require.
“As leader of Melton Borough Council, my cabinet and I will simply not allow us to turn our backs on them when they face persecution, torture and death.
“This is a national effort that must be faced today, before it is too late, and we are proud to be able to play our part.
“I am confident that the families will be well supported once they move here and the council has already received fantastic offers of support and assistance from the local community to help ensure that this is the case.
“I know many will join me in wishing to make them feel as welcome as possible to Melton”
The Home Office has resettled 2,000 former Afghan staff and their families in the UK since June 22 this year.
It states: “All applications are subjected to security checks carried out across government departments, including the police, and with the same criteria applied.
“The UK government will continue to exclude those whose dismissal from service was based on serious security concerns and those who committed offences that constitute a crime under UK laws, including sexual and violent assault, theft and drug abuse.
“Anyone arriving from Afghanistan will be required to quarantine in line with the current government requirements. Our withdrawal planning is designed to operate within stringent COVID-19 operating procedures in order to prevent the spread of the virus.”