Afghan refugees? No thanks said Torbay

No Refuge for Afghans in Torbay (Courtesy: Ed Oldfield / LDRS)

Lib Dems claim ‘perfect storm’ for hosting

Torbay’s council will not take in any refugees from Afghanistan, the council chief said, sparking a rift between Lib Dem’s leadership and the Tory Bay MP who told him to “take control.”

Lib Dem and independent coalition leader Steve Darling (Lib Dems, Barton with Watcombe) blamed the housing crisis in Torbay for the move, saying the council had no choice and is not in able to meet the housing needs of residents in the state.

The announcement follows urgent appeals from the government to councils across the country asking them to provide housing for up to 20,000 Afghans in need of sanctuary.

Cllr Darling said the situation in Afghanistan was “mortifying”, but added: “We have real huge challenges to support our own people, let alone the Afghan refugees.

“I don’t think people realize how much of a perfect storm we have in Torbay. We are in a crisis situation with our own people.

Cllr Darling says the situation is so dire that the council has been forced to make housing offers to people far from the bay in places such as Bath, Weston-super-Mare and Glastonbury.

Last week, the head of council sent a letter to the government housing minister in which he described the “perfect storm” facing Torbay’s housing stock and asked for help finding more rental accommodation. He said the crisis had been exacerbated by an increase in AirBnB purchases and the rise of remote working, pushing people to move to pleasant areas such as the bay. The most desperate result is the nearly 150 households currently in temporary accommodation.

Cllr Darling says Torbay’s lack of ethnic diversity would complicate matters further, meaning refugees wouldn’t have a sufficient support network once they arrived, arguing that without it the council would “potentially set them up to fail.” “.

“Even if we had accommodation we would still face ethical challenges compared to other parts of the UK.”

Torbay MP Kevin Foster (Conservative) criticized the council’s decision: “No one expects an area like Torbay to make a big city commitment, but setting the level at zero is very disappointing.

“There are people who shared the dangers with our forces and supported our mission who now face extreme danger if they stay in Afghanistan and we all need to contribute to that. “

Mr Foster said Steve Darling needs to ‘get a feel for what he can do as head of council’ to meet the housing needs of Torbay residents.

Mr Foster added that a large number of refugees from Afghanistan would be highly skilled and employable, and therefore unlikely to put pressure on long-term counseling.

He also argued that the number of households Torbay would have to provide for refugees would be very low if he had responded to the government’s request.

According to statistics from Devon Home Choice, the council’s social housing platform, more than 1,400 households needed housing in Torbay last month, up from 1,157 in 2019.

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