Our thoughts remain with all our Afghan friends and clients and those affected by events in Afghanistan. We are extremely grateful for all the amazing offers of support we have received – the response to this crisis really has shown the best of Suffolk! We just wanted to give you an update on the current situation here with Afghan refugees and how you can help.

Current situation in Suffolk – In the last two months we have welcomed four Afghan interpreters and their families to Ipswich under the ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme, with a further three individuals arriving in Lowestoft. The women have had English assessments with us and are raring to learn, we are helping the children get into school and exploring employment options with the Dads.

We are not taking any donated items such as clothes or toys at the moment as we do not know what future needs will be (and we have no storage space!). Likewise we are not offering specific volunteering opportunities at this stage. We will put out appeals as and when we need items or extra volunteer support.

We are providing additional support to our existing Afghan clients, including families we have worked with for some time and more recently arrived Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASCs). Some have family members missing or under direct threat in Afghanistan. We are providing up-to-date information and guidance, as well as a sympathetic ear, listening to people’s fears, worries and even feelings of guilt for loved ones in danger back home.

What happens next – We welcome the commitment from Suffolk’s local authorities to play their part in the recently announced Afghan resettlement scheme, but at the moment we are waiting for further details. We do not yet know what Suffolk’s role in this will be, or the potential numbers or timescale. We do expect Suffolk to welcome further Afghan families under the existing ARAP scheme in the near future and we know that the scale of displacement, suffering and need is already great and will only increase. We stand ready to provide a warm welcome and are in this for the long term to provide support to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan here in Suffolk, however they arrive and whatever their needs.

How you can help – We know that demand for our specialist services, already extremely high, will only increase further as a result of these terrible events, so the most practical way to support our long term work with refugees from Afghanistan and elsewhere is to make a donation. We are a small, independent charity and anything you can give will make a real difference. You can find details of how to donate here: https://suffolkrefugee.org.uk/what-you-can-do/donate/

You can also sign up to our mailing list here in order to receive updates and the latest refugee news in Suffolk automatically.

The resettlement schemes will be organised through central government and local authorities. If you might be able to help, for instance, if you are a landlord and can offer an entire property to let, you can find further information and a dedicated email address for Suffolk County Council here. If you would like to show the level of support there is for Suffolk to play a full and generous role in resettling Afghan refugees, please do consider writing to your elected councillors or MPs.

If you are looking for other tangible ways to support refugees and small refugee charities like ourselves at the moment, we recommend this piece, which has some great suggestions.

Further background info – Some of the first people we worked with at Suffolk Refugee Support when we started in 1999 were Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban regime in power at the time, including a doctor we supported in our very early days who is now a senior GP and medical advisor to NHS England. We have supported hundreds of Afghan people and their families since then, while others have been friends, staff team colleagues, volunteers, or served on our Board of Trustees. We remember the cardiologist who sat in our waiting room kissing a photo of the wife and children he had lost, the young woman who had not left her house in three years for fear the Taliban would force her into marriage, and colleagues who were persecuted for being members of the Hazara ethnic minority. Without exception they have been dignified, polite, warm, generous, honest and resilient. We have shared with them their hopes and fears for the future of their country, and to see the Taliban back in power and yet more innocent Afghans uprooted and fleeing for their lives is heartbreaking. We hope the basic wish of the Afghan people for peace and freedom will one day soon be realised.

You can watch the powerful testimony of one Afghan refugee in Suffolk here, and read about the fears and concerns of an Afghan man we work with in Ipswich who interpreted for the British Army here.