Former Anderson hostels not suitable for rehousing refugees according to government criteria

THE OLD Anderson High School hostels would not be suitable for providing emergency accommodation to relocated Afghan refugees as they would not meet government criteria.

In an email seen by News from ShetlandBoard CEO Maggie Sandison said “we need to demonstrate that housing is adequate and secure for at least 12 months and ideally longer”.

The old school site will be redeveloped in the coming years and the B-rated Bruce and Janet Courtney hostels are expected to be redeveloped.

The British government recently announced its intention to resettle the first 5,000 Afghan refugees fleeing the country, which is now under Taliban rule, along with 15,000 more over the next few years.

It will likely work the same as the UK government’s previous Syrian resettlement scheme, in which the Shetland Islands Council was involved – bringing two families to the north of the islands.

With high demand and high prices, the Shetland real estate market is particularly hot at the moment, raising concerns about the logistics needed to relocate potential Afghan refugees.

But the idea of ​​using the two foyers at the old Anderson High School site, even on a temporary basis, has been ruled out.

The Janet Courtney Hostel was more recently used for students until the school closed in 2017 and its move across town, while the former Bruce Hostel had been used for other purposes.

It has been suggested that the Janet Courtney Hotel could provide student accommodation.

“The Home Office has specific minimum requirements for local authorities wishing to participate in the refugee resettlement program and we must demonstrate that housing is adequate and secure for at least 12 months and ideally longer,” Sandison wrote.

“Emergency accommodation is not acceptable for the program guidelines. I fully understand the desire for quick fixes, but hostel-type accommodation does not provide the safe, secure, private and appropriate accommodation that refugees need and that the Home Office is looking for.

She said the guidelines dictate that potential housing should take into account such things as family size, medical / housing needs, proximity to health and other services, and neighborhood safety.

Sandison said the council had previously produced a brief to make sure the refugees “understand where the Shetlands were and what we could offer as a community, but also the limitations as we want any resettlement to work for the individual / family “.

She said the council is currently in discussions with the Scottish Government and the Home Office about the new resettlement program.

When full details of the program are available, the board will provide details of its available property.

In June, the council received an advisory letter announcing the withdrawal of NATO military forces from Afghanistan.

The Home Office and the Defense Department have written to demand that all UK local authorities support the Fast Track Local Staff Relocation (LES) who have supported the UK in Afghanistan.

This is different from the more recently announced relocation program.

Meanwhile, a popular campaign to organize aid collection points in Shetlands for Afghan refugees entering the UK is gaining momentum.

Drop-off points have been organized from Unst to Fair Isle.

The most needed items include toiletries, diapers, shoes, clothing, hand sanitizer, and baby blankets.

Ryan Thomson, who coordinates the campaign, said: “The level of engagement and the offers of help and support are encouraging to see, but not unexpected to live in such a caring and compassionate community as the Shetland people.

“We have reports of people running out of space at their drop-off points because of the scale of the amount of donations received.”

The adviser said the plan is to maintain donations at least until next week.

“If you have essential items that you would like to donate, please contact your nearest drop-off point,” added Thomson.

“It’s heartbreaking every time you watch the news, but we can make a difference for individuals by donating essential items to refugees to give them basic necessities to then move on and start rebuilding their lives.

“My sincere thanks to everyone who volunteered to be drop-offs, to those who offered their help and support in any way to the call, and to the hundreds of people who donated. essential items for Afghan refugees.

More information about the drop-off points can be found here.