Background

We will all have seen the pictures of people fleeing Kabul, seeking safety in the aftermath of the Taliban’s taking power.

Around the country, churches are praying for the people of Afghanistan and for the international response, asking our government to show hospitality to people who are at risk of persecution, giving to organisations that provide relief, and offering or preparing to offer hospitality themselves.

As the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“We owe an absolute, lavishly generous moral covenant to all those who are at risk because they served with us in Afghanistan or took seriously our frequently professed commitment to its future, women and girls included. An Afghan refugee, now a UK citizen said to me this week, ‘families in such times of trouble belong together’. His words are not politics but humanity. This is about morals not numbers. Will the Government confirm that their policy will reflect moral obligation and not be controlled by numbers?”

Join in! Here are some suggestions for prayer, action, and giving.

Prayer

Whether in quiet prayers of our own or in public prayers in church, we can keep the people of Afghanistan, the situation in the country, those working to evacuate people, and the broader international response to what is happening in our prayers.

Download our special bulletin, which contains a prayer, as well as links to further prayers, prayer suggestions, and a prayer PowerPoint.

Giving

Some agencies have launched appeals that are specifically for their work in Afghanistan or their work supporting Afghan refugees in the UK. These include:

British Red Cross (relief and medical supplies)

Tearfund (relief packages)

Unicef (assistance for children)

UN Refugees (UNHCR – relief for displaced people)

Welcome Churches (support for UK churches offering welcome)

Action - Practical Support

People who have been evacuated often have to leave everything behind, so there will be a real need for goods to help people start their new lives in the UK. They’ll also need somewhere to live.

Nationally, Welcome Churches is helping local churches respond to these needs, especially in the areas that are currently centres of welcome. Join the Welcome Churches network to get updates from them – you can also attend one of the Afghan Welcomer training sessions that they will be running online on the evenings of 16, 22 and 28 September. Find out more or register here.  If you have access to a property which might be able to be let to a refugee family, you can also fill out their ‘Hospitality Pledge Landlord Search’ form.

In Oxfordshire, the County Council and Asylum Welcome are coordinating responses,  working with charities like CCOW and local refugee support groups.  Currently donations in kind are not needed,  though the County Council may start an online ‘wish list’ if particular goods are needed at a later stage: find out more here.  What is urgently needed is people – especially those with Dari and Pashto language skills, but also others – able to befriend and support Afghans who will be staying in temporary accommodation in Oxfordshire until they can be resettled somewhere in the country.  Contact us to be put in touch with the right people if you can help with this, and check for updates on Asylum Welcome’s Afghanistan Crisis page. As that page also indicates, Asylum Welcome is providing support to members of the Afghan community already in Oxfordshire, many of whom are anxious about friends and family, and continues to offer assistance through its food bank to asylum seekers and refugees locally. Support is always welcome.

In Buckinghamshire, the Buckinghamshire County Council is extending its existing ‘Helping Hand’ programme for vulnerable families to include the new arrivals from Afghanistan and is working with the Voluntary and Community Services in Bucks. If you would like to donate funds to help the Council provide “crisis support for individuals and their families, long-term resettlement support and grants to charities supporting Afghan Refugees”, you can do so here. If you’d like to let the Council know about any specific skills, support or experience you or your church (or other local organisation) have, you can register your offer of support here, and the Council will be in touch once it knows more about what is needed.

In Slough, Maidenhead and Windsor, Slough Refugee Support has established an online wish list for people who want to help supply some of the goods needed by people arriving from Afghanistan. They’re also working with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, who are seeking self-contained, privately rented housing  for Afghan refugee families in Windsor and Maidenhead. If you can help, please email Housing@RBWM.org.uk. Slough Refugee Support also has an appeal for funds to help them continue their work offering support and welcome to refugees generally.

In Berkshire, Reading Refugee Support Group has outlined key ways in which people can help, including through donations of funds or communications devices (laptops, tablets), volunteering as a translator, befriender or English teacher; or providing offers of accommodation.

Local authorities have already mentioned that they are hoping community sponsorship groups can help them to provide support for families coming in through the resettlement programme. Community sponsorship is a way in which groups of people can welcome a refugee family and provide the support that they need to start a new life in the UK. It involves a commitment to support the family for one year, helping them to access housing and services and to adjust to life in the UK. You can find out more about the programme from Reset or Sponsor Refugees or read our report on the Blackfriars (Oxford) Community Sponsorship Group in Oxford. We’re also planning a community sponsorship ‘taster’ event: Tuesday 5th October 7.30-9.00 pm on Zoom – email us at refugees@ccow.org.uk to find out more.

In the meantime, we’d suggest engaging with established local charities and groups, who are helping a wide variety of refugees and will be key to supporting Afghan Refugees as well. If you’re in Oxfordshire, take a look at the booklet we prepared with seven partner organisations that explains their work and how you can support it. If you’re in Berkshire, take a look at Reading Refugee Support Group. If you’re in Slough, take a look at Slough Refugee Support. And check our map to see whether there’s a Community Support Group near you.

Action - Speaking up for hospitality

Members of the diplomatic corps and military worked hard to evacuate as many people as they could from Kabul as the end of August approached – but many people whose work placed them at risk, and to whom we have an obligation, weren’t able to get out. While the Government is promising to accept limited numbers of refugees (5,000 in the coming year; 20,000 overall) through the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, more needs to be done. Moreover, there are key issues facing Afghans in the UK and their families that need to be addressed. We also need to address the provisions of the new Nationality and Borders Bill, which would delegitimise and criminalise refugee journeys that are not undertaken through regulated resettlement routes.

If you’d like to add your voice to those calling for hospitality, here are some ways to do so:

If you have one or two minutes:

if you have a social media account, follow refugee charities – both local and national – and share/retweet their posts to amplify their voice.

– The Government’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill includes provisions which would mean that people with legitimate claims to refugee status who made their own journeys to claim asylum (as opposed to coming through the very limited resettlement programmes) would be refused the opportunity to claim asylum, housed offshore or in substandard accommodation, or removed to a third country. Sign Refugee Action’s petition to demonstrate your opposition to these provisions.

Encourage politicians to increase their commitments by showing that there’s support for refugees in your area. Asylum Welcome has  ‘I Stand With Refugees’ stickers that you can place in the window of your car, business or home. You can collect a sticker from their office, or ask for some to be sent to you to distribute to members of your church.

If you have a little more time

write to your MP, picking up the points mentioned above. If you want a template for inspiration, Safe Passage  has one. Equally, you can pick up points made in the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants letter, which was signed by over 100 refugee charities. Any letter will help, as it will show the number of people who want our country to be generous and hospitable. But if you can, please do make the letter your own.  MPs value most letters that are written to reflect what you yourself think.

write to your local council, encouraging them to commit to resettling refugees in your area. Citizens UK has a template you can use.