Almost two dozen vulnerable Afghan families who helped British forces are set to be rehoused in Hampshire as the UK and military operation is wound down.
US and UK forces are beginning a final withdrawal from Afghanistan, having initially been deployed in 2001, with aims to get all troops out by September.
But in the past 20 years, many Afghan families have supported British troops as translators, guides and more – leaving them in a potentially dangerous situation when the armed forces leave the country.
The Home Office has accelerated a scheme to get these families rehoused in the UK, and Hampshire County Council is looking to take up to 22 of the 600 estimated families.
On Friday, the county council agreed that, with Home Office funding, these families will be rehoused across the county via district and borough councils.
Councillor Liz Fairhurst, executive member for adult services and public health, called for swift action to be taken, saying ‘otherwise they will be stuck in hotels with nowhere to go.’
‘We will be doing right by these families,’ she added.
Outlining key details in the report, director of adults’ health and care Stephen White said these families would be ‘at risk’ if left behind in Afghanistan.
All district and borough councils in Hampshire have given their backing to the scheme.
As part of the initiative, homeless services society Two Saints will also offer support through the programme.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel and councillor for Aldershot South, Cllr Bill Withers, hopes his area will give Afghan families a warm welcome.
He said: ‘We have a large Nepalese element in Rushmoor – like some other boroughs – and have the minister for veterans, so there’s an avenue there we want to pursue.’
While all councils are on board, there are concerns about the levels of funding that will be provided by the Home Office.
Cllr Ann Briggs, Conservative for Waterloo and Stakes, said: ‘I am really happy with the programme that we’re putting in place.
‘My main concern is what happens if we don’t get funding after the first year.
‘Some of the men, if they’ve been interpreters, are going to speak English, but for the women – who live a much more sheltered life – it’s going to be a huge learning curve for them.’