The leadership of North Yorkshire County Council has pledged to keep under review the number of Afghan people who assisted British forces against the Taliban it can house.
The authority’s executive said while taking an additional ten Afghan families to the nine families it had already housed in Catterick Garrison from the war-torn country would stretch resources such as schools and healthcare, it had great sympathy with the plight of thousands of Afghans facing persecution in their homeland for helping British soldiers.
The pledge follows the Ministry of Defence offering up to 38 of its vacant homes for military families in the county to the council to house evacuees from Afghanistan.
A meeting of the executive heard a number of the properties were unsuitable due to their remote locations, particularly as previous experience had shown the evacuees often had traumatic physical and mental health issues that requirement intensive support services.
Officers told executive members there had been issues for Afghan evacuees with the lack of hospitals in the area, meaning evacuees, some of whom had been shot while serving as interpreters for the British troops, having to commute to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, while places in primary schools were limited.
Executive member for stronger communities Councillor David Chance said given the commitments the authority had to other refugee groups and Ukrainian people services were “very stretched at the moment”.
However, he said the council could accept Afghan families at ten properties in Catterick Garrison without support services becoming overstretched and that those properties could be used to take more Afghan families after the initial arrivals moved on.
Councillor Kevin Foster, whose division includes part of the garrison and served in the Army for three decades, urged the authority to consider taking more Afghan families, saying the area had an array of resources, such as a recovery centre for veterans, that could assist the evacuees.
He said he believed the county had “a moral duty” to house more than one per cent of the Afghan evacuees wanting to relocate to Britain.
Coun Foster said: “These people were left behind, and in difficult situations, with probably a lot of retribution to them as well, having helped the British soldiers. I’m sure there are many horror stories to come out in the future about when we left them there. They were left high and dry.”
The authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said while it was important to be pragmatic about the services it could offer, he supported Coun Foster’s wish to help as many of the evacuees as possible and that the authority would review the volume of Afghan families it could rehouse.
He said: “I’m happy with the situation as it is, but let’s keep a watching brief on it, because it is a balance between those of us who want to offer some sort of refuge as a civilised society and our ability and propensity to provide that wraparound care.”