Many people are asking about Afghan resettlement in Eastbourne and what they can do. At times like these our hearts shout loudest; then the brains click in and we realise this is not a simple matter. If we bring refugees here where do we house them? I’ve written an update for the many people who are asking and thought it helpful to pass this information on to the Churches.
So many people are asking about what’s happening locally regarding Afghan refugees, I think it best to write to you all.
It is indeed a tragic situation and a massive one. The interpreters and their families have been arriving in the UK since May 2021. The Afghan relocations and Assistance Policy ARAP was launched on 1st April. 2,000 interpreters and their families have already arrived in the UK. Since then local councils have been looking for properties to house these families. The families, are in general, large so the councils are mostly looking for 4-5 bedroom houses. Houses are very few and far between, as we already know from the five [ actually 7 ] years of Syrian Resettlement. [ Since 2016 the Eastbourne Council was only able to house 9 families, 45 individuals, because of the lack of housing. However, it was good to manage that many]. Most of these 2,000 Afghan interpreters already here are being housed in large hotels in poor conditions across the UK, in cities and towns which are, historically, dispersal centres, rather like the conditions that all asylum seekers live in. In fact the conditions in which asylum seekers in Eastbourne live, are quite good in comparison to many parts of England. However, these are generally small rooms designed for one person. The intention is to house 5,000 in the UK by the end of the year. Unless anything miraculously changes ‘housed’ means in hotel/ hostel accommodation. Currently there are no Afghan families in Eastbourne.
You may have seen the awful tragedy in Sheffield, where a 5 year old Afghan boy fell to his death from the 9th floor. Rescued from Afghanistan and died due to poor health and safety management in the ‘hotel’. So, these people are in poor conditions because of lack of available homes.
The second Afghan resettlement programme, is the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme [ ACRS ]. There are some slight variations on the Resettlement of Syrians and Sudanese, but in principle very similar. The plan is to house about 5,000 a year over the next 5 or so years. Aiming at rehousing 20,000. We can all say it should be more people, but the truth is, we bring these people here and then don’t have homes for them to live in.
Homes and housing, already set aside for social rehousing of local people, cannot be used, as it must remain for the needs of a locality, and as we know there is a vast shortage in housing in our town anyway. The local council has been searching and asking for homes, since the Spring. The project is only going to be successful if homes are found.
So, in fact, the best way forward is to put our energy into asking anybody we know about a second home sitting empty; or perhaps somebody inheriting a house – the rental payments are secure because they come direct via the council. Families will be supported by the council in terms of paperwork and finances, and Networx befrienders will support the families in terms of friendship, language, homework etc.
Refugee families want to blend into the locality, as we would. They want to settle, and be safe and be useful, in the community. The last thing they want is to be in the press and made a fuss of. Sadly whilst most of us will welcome them, there are plenty who would prefer to be rude to them. For this reason our work is confidential. If they arrive here because we have found homes, there will be plenty of opportunities to help them. At this stage the focus is on finding homes. Until we have houses the council cannot resettle families
All the best to you all,
Founder & Chair of Eastbourne NetworX
(based at Victoria Baptist Church)
Supporting Refugees , Asylum Seekers and Migrants
in Eastbourne, with no or little recourse to public funds
Charity number 1170393