Essex people rally to support Afghan refugees

The Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford

The Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford. The Diocese serves the East London boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, the county of Essex, and the unitary authorities of Southend and Thurrock. - Credit: Paul Starr/ The Church of England

Leaders in the Diocese of Chelmsford, the Church of England in East London and Essex, have said they are ready to serve and support Afghan refugees.

Their comments come as Essex districts say they will accept Afghan families fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Uttlesford District Council has pledged to work with Essex County Council and other agencies to accommodate and support refugees who may be re-settled in Essex.

UDC is putting together a database of organisations and people willing to help, including those who can offer self-contained family housing.

Braintree District Council, Basildon Council and Rochford District Council are also in the process of identifying suitable housing.

Cllr Melvin Caton, the leader of Liberal Democrats on Uttlesford District Council said: “Uttlesford has welcomed a number of Syrian families to the district in recent years following the civil war in that country.

"We should do the same for refugees that are fleeing their homes or face threats of persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Around 80 Afghan interpreters and their families have already arrived in Colchester and Chelmsford.

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The Government says it will resettle 5,000 refugees nationwide by the end of 2021 and 20,000 over five years.

Afghans and foreign citizens have been trying to get out of the country after the Taliban re-captured control of Kabul on Sunday.

On Friday (August 20), the World Health Organization (WHO) said they could not deliver 500 mega-tonnes of medicine supplies and equipment into the country as commercial aircraft are not allowed to arrive into Kabul airport.

Refugee coordinator, the Revd Canon Gareth Jones of the Diocese of Chelmsford

Refugee coordinator, the Revd Canon Gareth Jones of the Diocese of Chelmsford - Credit: Church of England, Diocese of Chelmsford

Leaders in the Diocese of Chelmsford said they are ready to support refugees.

In a joint statement, The Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford, and the Diocesan Refugee Coordinator, the Revd Canon Gareth Jones, said that in the coming weeks, as the Government's position becomes clear, their diocesan programme will be widened and reshaped to help.

The statement reads: "Since 2015 the Diocese of Chelmsford has resettled almost 200 refugees through our resettlement programme.

"Most have been families fleeing the Syrian conflict, but a number have been Afghan interpreters and their families fleeing the Taliban.

"As pictures of the catastrophic impact of the crisis in Afghanistan fill our TV screens, the human cost in lives devastated seems too much to comprehend, and many of us are left wondering what we can do to help in the face of such great tragedy.

"As a diocese committed to serving Christ in the downtrodden, persecuted and oppressed, and to
witnessing to the transforming presence of Christ in the midst of the seemingly impossible, we
continue to stand ready to do all that we can to serve and support refugees in our parishes across
East London and Essex, and those communities seeking to walk alongside displaced people.

"Our Refugee Engagement Team is ready and resourced to support parishes in welcoming and
supporting Afghan refugees over the coming months and years, and to building on the life changing
work already done since 2015.

"As the Government programme for Afghan resettlement becomes clearer over the coming weeks, our own diocesan programme will be widened and reshaped to work alongside partners in providing the care, love and support to which the gospel calls us."

They added: "Please join us in praying for the people of Afghanistan, together with all those engaged in efforts to bring peace, security and support for those in need."