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© European Union/Mallika Panorat© European Union/Mallika Panorat

Eleanor Taylor was part of a group that welcomed a Syrian refugee family to Wanstead earlier this year. As that family continue to enjoy a safer and happier life, there are now many Afghans in need of similar help

The recent end of UK operations in Afghanistan meant we all saw heart-breaking footage of families who had worked with the UK-backed government, women in positions of power, translators and interpreters, joining the scramble to board flights to safety. Many of us watching wondered how we might be able to directly assist families to start a new life in a place of safety.

The UK government recently released details of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which will help to relocate some of these families to the UK. In part, the scheme will rely on local authorities to accommodate and resettle families, but the programme will also have a voluntary element. This means all of us in Wanstead and surrounding communities can help Afghan refugee families start a new life, through support and donations, but especially through Community Sponsorship. The scheme will work in the same way as that which helped a group of us to welcome a Syrian refugee family to Wanstead in early 2021.

Our Community Sponsorship journey began in 2019 when a group of volunteers were put in touch by local churches, formed Refugee Welcome Wanstead and applied to the Home Office to support a family for their first two years in the UK. The goal of the project is to support a family towards developing the skills and knowledge needed to live an independent life after their two years with us.

The application process involved fundraising, sourcing suitable accommodation and liaison with the council and other local service providers. We were then matched to a registered refugee family by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration, considering property size, additional needs, and existing links or language compatibility with the host country.

We are currently six months into working with our family, with support from the charity Reset UK, and they are progressing remarkably well. This scheme has helped hundreds of Syrian refugees in the UK, and similar schemes worldwide have enabled thousands of vulnerable refugees to flee the Syrian conflict.

It is clear that, in the coming months, the need for volunteers who can help to support a family fleeing the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan will be greater than ever. There are lots of ways you can help to welcome Afghan refugees to safety. If you would like to hear more about our experience working directly through the Community Sponsorship scheme, please get in touch.

To help welcome an Afghan refugee family, visit wnstd.com/reset

For more information about Refugee Welcome Wanstead, visit wnstd.com/welcome