Harlow becomes latest Essex town to welcome Afghan refugees
Harlow has become the latest Essex town to provide ‘bridging’ accommodation for Afghan families, with a hotel in the town welcoming its first guests this week.
Bridging accommodation at hotels has been set up by the Home Office across the country, with hotels in Essex at Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea also providing accommodation.
16 families are currently being supported in hotels in Chelmsford and Colchester and a further 22 are being supported in Harlow until suitable, sustainable housing can be found for them.
These families arrived in the country through the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy, having been ‘locally employed staff’ (for example, interpreters) in Afghanistan, or are being supported through the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). ACRS provides protection for people at risk and identified as in need.
They are being supported by Essex County Council in terms of welfare and education needs for children and adults. Families have also been registered with local GP surgeries. Additional needs or requirements are being met through the Essex Welfare Service, who have set up collection points for donated items.
Essex Integration, a not-for-profit organisation is also providing integration support to families, and the local Essex Department for Work and Pensions service are also processing benefit claims. This is all part of the Team Essex approach.
Identifying and securing permanent homes for families is a work in progress, with housing staff from district and borough councils leading this part of the process along with ECC and the government department teams.
Two other hotels in Essex, at Birchanger Green near Bishop’s Stortford and Ardleigh near Colchester, are also providing Home Office-organised bridging accommodation for people including Afghan families. Councils and local GP surgeries are providing support until families are able to move on to new locations.
Last week Essex Local Authorities announced a new task force set up to find homes for Afghan families, with district, borough and city councils already working hard to bring forward the right sort of homes.
Donations coordinated by the Red Cross in Essex are still paused, while the existing items so generously given by Essex residents are distributed. Announcements will follow as soon as donations can be made again. Some local schemes are in operation where people can make donations.
Any private landlords who have suitable accommodation for families are reminded to contact their local city, borough or district council.