Press release: Supporting Afghan refugees is about more than words

August 18, 2021 4:30 PM

Responding to an open letter to local borough councils from Guildford's MP, Cllr Julia McShane (Lib Dem Councillor for Westborough and Guildford Borough Council Group Leader) explains how Guildford is responding to the Afghan crisis:

"Like so many of us, I am heartbroken as I watch the events unfolding in Afghanistan, hearing the stories of people, and especially many women, who have already felt that they have needed to take radical action to protect themselves and loved ones.

Guildford is already committed to doing the best we can to help these communities and families in need - earlier this year Guildford Borough Council agreed on a scheme to find safe homes for any refugees fleeing violence in their homeland. It is my role as Lead Councillor for Community, together with the Director of Operations, to manage future applications - a role I take incredibly seriously.

Alongside this, the council supports local community groups to take responsibility to welcome, house and support refugee families directly into their local community. I encourage local community groups to apply to also be part of the Community Sponsorship programme, more details of which can be provided by emailing sespm@secouncils.gov.uk."

Guildford Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson Zöe Franklin also responded to the letter to Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils saying:

"I was saddened to see this letter on an issue so important and emotive shared on social media before, as I understand it, the councils had even had time to comment.

It goes without saying that both councils, based on their existing work, would be working to provide refuge for Afghans fleeing the Taliban. However, it's crucial for the public to know that councils always have to work within the parameters set by the Government. It's also important to note that while councils provide this support for refugees willingly it is costly and to expand what they're doing they need a long-term commitment from the Government that they will provide the funding needed and not just for the first 12 months. Council finances are already stretched due to the pandemic and funding cuts, they are not a bottomless pit.

I know that both councils will do all they can over the coming weeks to progress support for Afghan refugees quickly and effectively and encourage local organisations and families to contact the council if they can support this work.

As for Ms Richardson MP, I encourage her to seriously reflect on the fact that while calling for councils to support refugees she has consistently voted for a stricter asylum system and, just this month, to cut overseas aid spending including a 78% aid cut to Afghanistan. She should remember that actions speak louder than words. Or tweets."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the following in response to the Afghan crisis:

  • For the Government to commit to resettling at least 20,000 Afghan refugees as well as creating an emergency Women and Girls Resettlement Scheme.
  • To act urgently recognising it's now or never to save innocent people from the terror of the Taliban.

The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need. We need to show that same leadership and compassion now.