Afghanistan: responding to the crisis and welcoming those in need

Guest blog by Alison Gowman, independent Alderman for the Ward of Dowgate in the City of London.

Welcome painted on the floor with red paint and a pair of black shoes standing next to the sign
  • Author: Alison Gowman
  • Published: 3 September 2021

As the world watches the scenes in Afghanistan many of us are asking ourselves how can we help – those left behind in the country but desperate to leave, those who have made it safely to the UK or another friendly nation, and those in limbo, stuck between borders?

I am pleased to hear that the organisations in the UK which are already involved with the Afghani community are working hard to address the imminent needs, but they will need more support and help as the demands are growing. Alongside statutory bodies such as national government and local authorities, civil society is also treating the situation with urgency and intent.

As has been proved at other moments of major crisis (such as the 7/7 London bombings and Grenfell Tower) the help can best be given in collaboration with those who are nearest the need, and ideally from an existing relationship with a trusted partner on the ground.

London Funders (the umbrella body for all funders and investors of London’s civil society) called a meeting last week to co-ordinate the response and share thoughts. Exchanging knowledge and intelligence about the issues is critical so that the best actions can be taken. I anticipate good actions will now follow. Specialist groups understanding immigration, legal and language needs are critical as well as being able to negotiate the bureaucracy of the funding and housing provision that is being offered.

Help can be provided in several ways:

  • Raising money for displaced people in Afghanistan, in the UK and in between. As with all such donations they need to be given to the right organisation who has the ability to use this wisely and are credible in their aims.
  • Supporting resettled people arriving in the UK (2,000 people arrived early last week, others will follow and many are likely to gravitate to London). At present 60% of the UK’s 250,000 residents of Afghan origin live in Greater London.
  • Working to integrate people through housing advice, language classes, mentoring, social and cultural support, legal advice, immigration advice and well as support with paperwork
  • Working with other organisations in lobbying the Home Office to allow more Afghans into the UK or to provide help in other ways

I know that the City Bridge Trust is one of the funders reviewing the needs and supporting their grantees working in this area. The law firm I work with is providing pro bono advice to new arrivals on legal and administrative matters. Many other initiatives are in hand. Responding to this crisis and welcoming those in need into our neighbourhood and communities will be a mark of our humanity. Let us all hope that the UK can deliver on this.

Three ways to support Afghan refugees

Standing up for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK

Providing integration support to refugees in the UK & humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan

Empowering refugees living in the UK through education, training and employment