As the Taliban continues its takeover of Afghanistan, thousands of citizens have been forced to flee their homes, and Blackpool, Wyre, and Fylde are among the places called on to provide a safe haven to those in desperate need.
The Taliban seized power in the country two weeks before America was set to complete its withdrawal of troops following a war which spanned two decades.
Britain has opened its borders to Afghan people most at risk of persecution by the Taliban, and councils all over the country are being urged to provide shelter to such refugees.
Prime minister Boris Johnson promised around 20,000 Afghans who aided the British army are to be welcomed to the UK in coming years, with 5,000 of these expected to arrive in 2021.
He said: “We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last 20 years.
“Many of them, particularly women, are now in urgent need of our help. I am proud that the UK has been able to put in place this route to help them and their families live safely in the UK.”
Armed fighters swept into Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, on Sunday. In a press conference two days later, the group looked forward to good relations with other countries, saying ‘animosities have come to an end and we would like to live peacefully’.
However, experts have warned that the country could again become a hotbed for terrorism.
Fears have also been raised about the future rights of Afghan women, as the Taliban promised to uphold such rights only ‘within the framework of Sharia’. Between 1996 and 2001, when the group controlled the country, strict rules were put in place in line with its interpretation of Sharia law, which included mandatory full-body burkas for women and a lack of education for girls over 10.
The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will target women, children, and others under threat of persecution.
They will join other refugees from the Middle East and Northern Africa seeking sanctuary under the UK Resettlement Scheme, who could find new homes in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre.
Both Blackpool and Wyre Councils welcomed the prospect of helping incoming Afghan people.
A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “We work in partnership with our neighbouring authority, Lancashire, to support the resettlement of refugees across the region and to ensure that they have the support they need on arrival and while they settle in to their new community. We are working with the refugee team to assist in any way we can the additional pressure that the recent call to action has highlighted.”
A Wyre Council spokesman said: “Over the last four years Wyre Council has been pleased to offer support to 11 Syrian refugee families who we’ve helped to resettle in the borough. We are currently looking to extend our support of the Government’s UK Resettlement scheme and provide support for up to five further Syrian households every two years. Additionally we are now looking to see how we can support Government Afghan relocation schemes as the situation develops.
“Our priority is to ensure that any relocated families are safe and settled and do what we can to help them become part of the local community.”
Fylde Council was approached but declined to comment.