Everyone in Cheltenham should rightly be very proud of our Town of Sanctuary status.
The big-hearted approach we take to looking after some of the world’s most vulnerable people is something we can all get behind.
Refugees and asylum seekers are our friends and neighbours, our work colleagues, business owners and taxpayers. When we give them the chance to rebuild their lives in safety they repay us by becoming upstanding members of our community.
But the reason why we are welcoming seven new Afghan families to town goes further than that. We already owe a debt of gratitude to them because of their service to our country. The lead member of each family group worked with British armed forces, acting as local interpreters in the long-running conflict in the region, saving many lives, including those of the British service personal that they bravely worked alongside.
This is a central government-funded scheme that will see a total of 35 families arrive in the county. Liberal Democrat-run Cheltenham Borough Council in partnership with Cheltenham Borough Homes and other partners like Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees and GARAS, will support the integration of our new residents. Assisting them in settling into their new homes, schools and communities as well as assisting them into finding jobs locally. Incidentally, some have asked what we are doing for our military personnel – look no further than our Homes for Veterans scheme.
In the last few weeks, many thousands more Afghan people have been forced to desperately flee their country after the return to power of the brutal Taliban regime.
The UK government has announced a further scheme to help support and welcome these new refugees to our country. The scale of the commitment by our government seems unlikely to match the scale of the disaster unfolding and Cheltenham Borough Council can only work within the rules set at Westminster.
However, local people can rest assured that when the time comes, our town will take our fair share of these desperate and brave people. Cheltenham looks forward to welcoming our new Afghan friends to our beautiful town.
- Councillor Mike Collins, Cabinet Member for Housing