• Wednesday, September 28, 2022

News

Derby ‘stands ready to help’ Afghan refugees

A member of Border Force staff assists a female evacuee as refugees arrive from Afghanistan at Heathrow Airport. (Dominic Lipinski/Reuters)

By: Eddie Bisknell

DERBY “stands ready to help” Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban, with a city leader saying it welcomes them with open arms.

Afghanistan is in the midst of a crisis, with the Taliban taking control of the country for the first time in 20 years.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan residents are now fleeing to escape the hardline Taliban regime, and many of these are people who have assisted the UK and US military during the ongoing conflict.

A Derby City Council spokesperson confirmed that the city is already housing Afghan refugees through the locally employed staff relocation scheme, and urged compassion towards those being settled.

These are Afghan residents and their families who have assisted UK or US military forces in their efforts oversees – including roles as translators.

Amo Raju, chairman of the Derby Asian Strategic Partnership, says the city has a fine history in welcoming migrants and refugees and stands to do so again.

He says those in the city with Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are keen to help, including those who have been settled in Derby for decades.

Raju said it was the image of a baby being passed to troops by its parents over a barbed-wire fence on the walls around Kabul airport, which spurred him into action.

He says he is aware of a minority of city residents who oppose migrants and refugees but that they are but a vocal few.

Raju told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We stand in solidarity with these guys and I am sure the wider community will be saying the same thing. We need to make sure they will have everything they need.

“We were as shocked as anybody else as to the speed of the changes going on in Afghanistan. When there is that level of speed, you can’t put the level of infrastructure in fast enough to ensure people do not suffer.

“We welcome people coming into the city but we want to make sure we have everything in place for them, including food and clothing – when they do eventually get here. There’s a very good chance they will be coming with nothing.

“We need to make sure the children in particular, who are frightened, are looked after. They have been uprooted and left their friends and their family and are coming to a new way of life and a new culture and we need to ensure they are supported.”

Much of Derby’s Asian communities migrated to the city in the decades after the second world war, largely in the 50s and 60s.

Raju, who was born and raised in the city, said his family migrated to Derby in the 60s, saying: “They came under different circumstances but whichever way you arrive here, you always feel a little isolated and frightened to some extent about ‘what’s ahead of us’.

“They’ll feel like ‘well, we’ve fled a battle zone, we are fleeing somewhere where we could have been persecuted’ and we want to make sure they feel welcome.”

He said Derby is a city which has a “proud history” of settling migrants, including the city’s Polish residents.

Raju said: “There are parts of the city where there have been noises made about certain elements of it, some unsavoury people who do not welcome change, but they are in the small minority.

“The vast majority of people who I have spoken to, in this particular crisis with Afghanistan, they are speaking quite postiviley. They feel the pain.

“Particularly the fact that these families, most of them, were working alongside the British and American forces to ensure the troops were kept safe.

“I was worried if they were going to be welcomed but I have not seen anything that alarms me, apart from some social media comments.”

He said most of the members of the Derby Asian Strategic Partnership have family members who were raised in other countries and have “seen the difficulties” that they faced.

Raju said: “Some people have this view that refugees and asylum seekers are going to ‘come here and steal our jobs’ and be a burden on the system.

“That is not the case. They add to the system and add a lot of vibrancy to the city’s offer. It is only going to be a good thing.”

The Derby Asian Strategic Partnership has now started a fundraiser to collect money to give to frontline charities in the city who will be assisting the settlement of Afghan refugees and it has now surpassed £1,000 in donations.

A spokesperson for Derby City Council said: “In Derby, our hearts go out to those affected by the terrible events in Afghanistan.

“We stand ready to help, and welcome those in crisis – it is the humane and moral thing to do.

“The city is currently accommodating Afghan refugees through the Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation Scheme and we would urge people to show them compassion.

“We have already received many calls from residents asking about fundraising and donations and these are being directed to Upbeat Communities – this is the local arm of Welcome Churches who are working with the Home office to support the various schemes.”

To donate to the Derby Asian Strategic Partnership’s fundraiser, visit the following link: https://bit.ly/2UQP6D9

(Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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