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Council / Council to identify potential houses to resettle Afghan citizens

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council is in the process of identifying two suitable houses in Lerwick as the islands’ contribution to the UK-wide Afghan citizens resettlement scheme (ACRS).

Chief executive Maggie Sandison said discussions between the local authority, the UK Government and Scottish councils’ umbrella body CoSLA were ongoing.

She said the resettlement programme would be a direct match of the Syrian settlement scheme a few years ago: “We now have information that indicates we will get a five-year package of support from the UK Government – we are also working with CoSLA. We are identifying the properties that would be available.”

Sandison continued that any decisions on whether Shetland would actually be able to take Afghan refugees has yet to be made and will be a long way off.

“We have started discussions with them (UK Government and CoSLA) about some particular properties that we are likely have available,” she said.

“We are engaging with the scheme for Shetland to do our bit but we have to remember that we match against need and sometimes there are needs that can’t be met here in Shetland, particularly some of the more challenging medical need, and we also match against preference.

“I know it’s hard for people to believe but sometimes people would rather stay in temporary accommodation in a hotel in Glasgow because they have a community there.”

The UK has committed to accept up to 20,000 Afghans citizen identified as most at risk over the coming years, with around 5,000 coming to the UK in the first year, though opposition parties have called for a greater number to be accepted.

A decision on whether those coming under the resettlement scheme will be granted indefinite leave to remain has yet to be taken.

However, those who have worked for the British military or the UK Government in Afghanistan will be able to move the UK permanently.