Horsham district promises to take in Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban

Horsham councillors have doubled down on a pledge to take in refugees fleeing the turmoil in Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees arrive in Heathrow (Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan refugees arrive in Heathrow (Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

When the Taliban seized control of the country last month, district council leader Paul Clarke said the council was ready to step up and find accommodation for those who were evacuated.

It was a promise which was solidified at a meeting of the full council, when members gave unanimous support to a motion resolving to work with the Home Office, charities and other agencies to take in a ‘fair and reasonable’ number of people.

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The motion was tabled by Billy Greening (Con, Southwater North).

Having read some social media comments which likened the refugees to ‘invaders’, Mr Greening called on people to challenge xenophobia.

He added: “I ask you to think of the family fleeing to a foreign land with no hope, no friends and just the clothes they can pack into a small suitcase, if that.

“If we were in that situation, would we want to be turned away?”

Mr Greening reminded people of the Afghans who stood alongside British Armed Forces over the years and said there was a ‘moral responsibility’ to help and to repay the ‘debt of gratitude’ owed.

His view was supported by Philip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham & Ashington), who said: “If this country stands for anything, it stands for discharging debts of honour – at least I hope it will.”

Ruth Fletcher (Lib Dem, Denne), though, said the attitude towards refugees had been ‘frankly shameful’, adding that she would like to see Horsham show that it was ‘cut from a different cloth’.

The council doesn’t know yet how many families will find a home in Horsham as part of the government’s Warm Welcome resettlement scheme.

Tricia Youtan, cabinet member for housing, said officers were working in close partnership with the county council to participate in the scheme.

She added that when the refugees arrived, they would be ‘treated with all due respect and sympathy’.

The motion stressed the need for government funding and support for councils who do take in refugees – especially as so many authorities are already struggling to make ends meet.