MEMBERS of a Barnsley group set up to help refugees fleeing wartorn countries have confirmed they are helping Afghan families who have escaped the Taliban.
The award-winning Penistone Refugee Group is already looking after one set of arrivals from Kabul - thought to be the first family to arrive - and a second family was confirmed as arriving this week.
Vice-chairman David Greenhough, who is also a councillor for the Penistone West ward, said the refugees are ‘incredibly thankful’ to be in a place of safety in the borough.
“The first family members to arrive under the resettlement scheme are now here,” he said.
“These are people who worked alongside British armed forces in Afghanistan.
“A member of the family worked hand-in-hand with the military, so it was simply too dangerous for them to stay as they would have been executed. Barnsley Council asked us to help these families so we will be right in the middle of this. The family comprises parents with young children and they are very glad to be here, but another family member is still out there in Kabul.
“It is hard to believe what has happened - Afghanistan was becoming a much more open place but it faces a dark future now.”
The family’s stay is being funded directly from the Ministry of Defence and comes as a direct result of armed forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is now under the Taliban’s total control despite two decades of occupation.
Over the next few years up to 20,000 women, children and others most in need will be welcomed to the UK under one of the ‘most generous’ resettlement schemes in the country’s history as a result of the troubles.
Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis, who served as a Paratrooper on two occasions in Afghanistan, added: “Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban and it’s a humiliating end to 20 years of sacrifice and misplaced effort.
“This is what political failure looks like - there’s been a complete failure of political leadership. I recently spoke in Parliament about what needs to be done to support those fleeing the Taliban.
“Afghanistan is a country I dedicated much of my early life to, a place where I served and saw my mates die. That’s why I believe that now is not the moment for Britain to abandon that country and everything we fought for.”
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock told the Chronicle that Afghan refugees ‘cannot be betrayed’ in their time of need.
She said: “The catastrophe that we now see unfolding in Afghanistan is devastating.
“The progress that has been fought for at such great cost is now being lost. It is a tragedy for the people of Afghanistan, not least women and girls.
“Civilians have fled the Taliban, desperate to protect themselves and their families, so they need safe and legal routes to safety.
“But Boris Johnson has announced a resettlement programme that doesn’t meet the scale of the crisis or the obligation that we owe to the Afghan people.
“We cannot betray the people of Afghanistan and we cannot forget all of those who fought to rid the country of terror.
“We must establish a resettlement programme that meets the scale of the refugee crisis.”