Council agrees to double number of Afghan refugees coming to region

Perth and Kinross Council has approved plans to welcome Afghan refugees to the region.

After pressure from PKC’s Labour and Independent group, PKC agreed to double the number of refugees the council initially pledged to accommodate.

The commitment was agreed at a special meeting on Monday, August 30.

Earlier this month, councillors unanimously agreed for PKC to offer accommodation and support to Afghan Locally Employed Staff (LES) and their families.

The UK Government scheme to support Afghan Locally Employed Staff and their families was established in 2013.

At Monday’s virtual meeting council leader Murray Lyle put forward a motion committing an offer of support and assistance to five individuals or three households who had fled the Taliban takeover.

He added a commitment to increase that offer to 10 individuals or six households if required or “even more flexibility – if required – that we could be able to go beyond that point”.

The council hopes to be able to welcome Afghan families and/or individuals to the region in the next few weeks.

The Conservative leader told councillors: “We are in a good position to welcome individuals and families from Afghanistan and our participation in the scheme will confirm our commitment to providing humanitarian support to individuals and families who have worked side by side with our armed forces and officials.

“We are already engaging with a range of partners across the private, public and third sector as well as community groups and social enterprises to co-ordinate support for any families that come to be resettled in Perth and Kinross.

“The scheme will meet the cost of relocation for these families and they will all be housed in privately rented accommodation.

“We have already had lots of offers of support coming in, which demonstrates the extraordinary generosity of the people of Perth and Kinross.”

Cllr Lyle’s motion was seconded by Conservative councillor Bob Brawn.

Cllr Brawn said: “There can be very few people who have not been moved by the distressing scenes that have been coming out of Kabul over recent weeks.”

The housing and communities convener added: “Because we already have a high demand for social housing, we will be looking to source suitable accommodation from the private rented sector.

“We are currently engaging with a range of partners across all sectors as well as community groups and social enterprises to co-ordinate support for any families that are resettled in Perth and Kinross.”

Labour councillor Alasdair Bailey put forward a motion seconded by Independent councillor Xander McDade to make a firm commitment to double the offer of support to 10 individuals or six families.

Cllr Bailey said: “This enhanced level of commitment shall be relayed to COSLA in order that those in most urgent need are not left waiting for our support for any longer than is necessary.”

The Conservative Leader said he was happy to incorporate the Labour/Independent amendment into his motion which was agreed.

After the meeting Cllr Bailey told the Perthshire Advertiser : “I’m really happy that my amendment to extend a firm offer to accommodate twice the number of people fleeing Afghanistan was passed after the administration accepted it.

“These people put their lives at risk to help our failed intervention in Afghanistan and therefore it is important that we step up at this time when they need our help.”

PKC has previously assisted in relocation schemes.

The council provided assistance to seven families from Syria in 2015 and 2016 and 17 Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASCs) have been supported by PKC to resettle in the area.

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