Much has been written recently in the local press and on local social media pages about the 15 Afghan families currently in temporary accommodation in an Exmouth hotel.
When asked about my view on this I have been explicitly clear – I am proud that East Devon is playing its part in helping refugees from Afghanistan take their first steps in our country. It is undoubtedly the right thing to do.
We owe them an immense debt of gratitude as they supported our soldiers through an extremely challenging and complex conflict. The government flew them out of Kabul in the last few days before flights were stopped by the Taliban.
Exmouth’s support for the Afghan refugees has been incredibly heartening. We should give our thanks to all the local volunteer groups who are pulling out the stops to organise help. The Exmouth Citizens Advice office is doing amazing work collecting all kinds of donations.
Support is also being co-ordinated by contributors to the Exmouth Community Facebook group. It is really life affirming to see how people across the area are answering requests for all kinds of adult and children’s clothing and items.
Sadly, social media can be a double-edged sword. Misinformation can spread far too easily. So it is worth remembering the facts.
The 15 Afghan families arrived in Exmouth having quarantined for 10 days as required by Covid-19 travel rules from Afghanistan.
They are in a hotel the Home Office has booked until permanent and long-term accommodation can be found for them anywhere in the UK. 60 hotels in the UK are being used by the Home Office for this reason.
As I said, this is temporary hotel accommodation rather than permanent housing. Given our existing housing crisis and pressure on services, we must only offer hope of a new life in East Devon if we can truly provide it. I’ll continue to support and solve cases involving rough sleepers and veterans, in particular. If someone needs help with housing, I will do everything I can to assist.
Britain has a strong track record when it comes to providing sanctuary to those fleeing persecution from regimes around the world. We should be proud of the warm welcome we’re offering Afghan refugees while they’re staying in Exmouth. Likewise, we should always look after those clearly struggling within our communities.
This column first appeared in the Exmouth Journal on Wednesday 29th September 2021 and in the Sidmouth Herald and Midweek Herald later in the week.