Afghanistan: Chichester 'poised to welcome influx' of refugees

A Chichester charity is looking for volunteers to help families arriving from Afghanistan.

The Taliban took over the South Asian country's capital, Kabul, earlier this month.

The UK government is reportedly looking to resettle 20,000 refugees with 5,000 in the first year. Chichester District Council has been looking for suitable accommodation.

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"Lots of you have been in touch recently to ask about the consequences in Chichester of the situation in Afghanistan, and to ask how you can help," said Gemma Driver from Sanctuary in Chichester.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 18: Protesters gather on Parliament Square to protest against the Taliban take over of Afghanistan on August 18, 2021 in London, United Kingdom. House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, recalled parliament from its summer recess to debate the situation in Afghanistan after a request from the government. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

"Well, the situation is that before the Taliban takeover, we already had recent arrivals on the Government Resettlement Scheme for 5,000 Afghan people who were interpreters for the British armed forces, and more were expected.

"Since the takeover and emergency expansion of the scheme to 20,000 people, we haven’t received any information about how many more to expect in Chichester or when they might arrive – probably because the Home Office isn’t sure yet.

"However, we are poised to welcome an influx at any moment."

The first new Afghan arrivals were welcomed to Chichester with a BBQ party earlier this week.

Gemma thanked all those from the community who came along and made the event 'so special'.

"One of our volunteers invited us all to a barbecue party in her beautiful garden," she said. "The sun shone and everyone brought food, cooked together and chatted.

"The afternoon was rounded off with some lively Syrian music, which inspired Syrian and Afghan dancing.

"It was a wonderful welcome for the new Afghan families who have just arrived, and the event perhaps momentarily took their minds off the worry over what is happening to loved ones back home."

The charity is looking for volunteer ‘befrienders’ to help new families settle in and then support them to build new lives as well as people with ESOL qualifications to provide one-to-one tutoring. Email [email protected] if you can commit some regular time.

Cash donations are also needed.

Gemma added: "We have had five new families arrive in the last five months (three in July), and because they arrive with virtually no belongings, it costs a lot to provide everything they need.

"As a small local charity, this has rapidly depleted our modest funds, so any donations will be very gratefully received and wisely spent. If you can manage a regular donation, it will help secure the future of Sanctuary in Chichester.

"A big thank you to Little Bundles, the Rotary Club and My Sister’s House, who have all helped enormously in filling the gaps at this time.

"When I took a (huge) Little Bundles delivery of equipment and toys to one family who previously didn’t have a single toy, the two teeny toddlers were so delighted, it was tear-jerking to see. They only knew a couple of words of English but kept saying thank you to me."