'Astounding' - Norfolk offers Afghan refugee help every five minutes
- Credit: PA
The "astounding" response of people offering to help Afghan refugees who will make new homes in the Norwich area has been hailed by council bosses, with offers of help every five minutes.
With refugees airlifted out of the country after the Taliban took control now in the UK, there is a race against time to get homes across the country, including in the Norwich area, ready for their arrival.
Under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, Norfolk had been expecting to resettle 50 people, 19 of whom had already arrived.
But, under the government's new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme - which will see up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees settled in the UK - more are due to arrive.
While it remains unclear just how many refugees will be settled in Norfolk - or exactly what funding will be provided by the government to support them - council bosses are having to figure out how they will accommodate them.
And Norfolk County Council bosses have praised the response from people in the county who have offered their time or donations to ensure the new arrivals have furnished homes, clothing and support.
Landlords in Norwich, Broadland and south Norfolk have been asked to offer homes where whole Afghan refugee families can be housed.
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County Hall has appealed for donations to furnish those homes including requests for: new mattresses; curtains; dining tables and chairs; small appliances such as toasters and microwaves; fridges; washing machines; cookers; sofas; armchairs; televisions; DVD players; wardrobes and garden tools.
And people have also been donating clothing at Alive UK's drop off point in Chantry Place in Norwich.
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Simon Shreeve manages the county council's People From Abroad Team, which is working to resettle the refugees.
He said: "We have had an astounding outpouring of support from across Norfolk and we're receiving an offer of help every five minutes.
"We are getting back to people to acknowledge their offers and to establish how to make best use of what they have offered, be it their time or donations."
Norfolk will not be hosting Afghan arrivals in the homes of local residents, so people are not being asked to offer spare bedrooms and nor will council housing be used.
Rather, the focus is on finding privately owned properties which people will offer, with the People From Abroad team keen to get the donations of furniture so the homes can be furnished for the refugees.
Officers in the Let NCC team have been working closely with Norfolk County Council and the Home Office to match families in most need with the properties available.
With those who have just arrived in the airlifts from Afghanistan needing to be quarantined for 10 days, it is likely to be the second or third week of September before they begin to arrive in Norfolk.
That has created a race against time to get properties ready and Mr Shreeve issued an appeal to tradespeople such as carpet-fitters, painters and gardeners, who might be able to assist.
The Afghan arrivals will also be given support and assistance to help them establish their new lives.
They will be housed in the Greater Norwich area, as that has the best transport links and support structures in place.
The help they will be given includes school places for children, physical and mental health support, help to learn English, help registering with local services and help to find jobs.
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "It is important to understand that when we welcome these individuals and families to Norfolk, it includes a commitment to help them settle here and to build a new life.
"While accommodation is a first step, our People from Abroad Team go far beyond that in helping refugees that arrive in Norfolk."
Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk, said he had been delighted to see such a good response to the council's plea for help.
He said: "Norfolk has always been extremely generous and we have seen that come out in the positive response Norfolk County Council has had to their appeal.
"The county council has been exemplary in stepping up to become one of the first councils in the country which offered support."
How you can help
Donations of the items listed above, should be made via www.gov.uk/help-refugees.
People who have an entire self-contained property to house a refugee family for at least 12 months in the Norwich area should contact Norwich City Council at email@example.com or 01603 989444.
Those from Broadland and South Norfolk should email firstname.lastname@example.org or 01508 533893.
The Bishop of Norwich has extended a refugee fund used to support Syrian refugees to those from Afghanistan.
The Norwich Diocesan Board of Finance will administrate the fund. Donations can be made at www.dioceseofnorwich.org/donate/
Cheques, to NDBF Ltd, can be sent to 109 Dereham Road, Easton, Norwich, NR9 5ES, with a covering note to say it is for the Refugee Fund.