Frustration as bid to house Afghan refugees fails

Refugees from Afghanistan arriving on a evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport.

Refugees from Afghanistan arriving on a evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport. - Credit: PA

Hopes to house Afghan refugees in north Norfolk appear to have been dashed. 

The district council had wanted to providing housing for some people fleeing the Taliban, and at one point was poised to take in "four large families and six single interpreters".

But Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council leader, said those efforts had failed.

She said: "These people deserve better and I believe, as an authority, we want to stand together with our colleagues around the country in providing support. This refusal to engage is not for the want of us trying exceptionally hard with our partners on a very obvious and immediate need."

Liberal Democrat council leader Sarah Bütikofer. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

North Norfolk District Council leader Sarah Bütikofer.  - Credit: North Norfolk District Council

Mrs Bütikofer said she and council chief executive Steve Blatch began offers to the county council and the Home Office to help Afghan interpreters and their families in June, before the Taliban's takeover of the country in mid-August. 

She said they were told north Norfolk was considered an "unacceptable location" for reasons including the district's lack of a mosque or existing Afghan community. 

Mrs Bütikofer said by August it appeared a solution had been found to house the families and single interpreters. 

"This housing is not on our housing register and would therefore have no impact on local families that are awaiting rehousing," she said. 

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But Mrs Bütikofer said last week they found out the proposal had been rejected by the Home Office because "the county council did not have the resource to work on further options for north Norfolk and would be concentrating its efforts on Norwich."

Mrs Bütikofer said the council was going to make one more offer to help before a deadline for expressions of interest expired today (September 23).

A county council spokesman did not wish to comment, saying the decision had been made by the Home Office.

In the UK's 20-year deployment to Afghanistan, around 2,850 Afghans worked as interpreters and translators for British forces. 

The government has said around 17,000 people had been evacuated from the country to the UK since April, the vast majority of those in the chaotic weeks following the Taliban takeover. 

The Home Office was also approached for a comment.