Our commitment

Refugees from Afghanistan

Camden stands ready to welcome refugees, and always has. We have a long and proud history of welcoming people who are displaced from all around the world as the flee conflict, disaster, and persecution.

Refugees who have settled in Camden have become valued members of our community and have helped to make Camden the vibrant, creative, and diverse place that it is today.

We are here to support people when they are at their most desperate, providing them with safety, shelter, and the opportunity to rebuild their lives and find happiness. 

We share an ambition with our community to provide the help that Afghan refugees deserve. Support needs to be ongoing and all-encompassing in order to ensure refugees settle and have what they need to thrive.

We will need to work closely with the government, our partners, and local community organisations to deliver this. However, a decade of austerity has reduced the capacity of local councils to do everything that is being asked of us by government.

We need funds from government that match the scale of the challenge. 

In the last decade Camden has stepped up to support those in need:

  • We welcomed 22 Syrian families – comprising 82 people – in 2016, initially the largest London response to the crisis in Syria.
  • We welcomed 10 young people from camps in Calais into our care between October and December 2016. 
  • This is in addition to supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children that come into our care every year. We are currently supporting 52 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Camden.

Councils, along with their partners have the connections, the structures and the services needed to save lives, provide emergency support and then to provide a base from which to grow and thrive.

But this is what we do for anyone who has hit hard times - we presently have 6500 people on our housing waiting lists, all of whom have needs.  

In Camden we believe that everyone should have a safe place to call home and we are urging government to manage the long term secure and safe resettlement of families as quickly as possible. 

Statement from Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council

It is devastating to see the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. We are concerned for the safety of all Afghan citizens and are particularly concerned about the safety and rights of women and girls. The Government must act quickly to ensure the safe and legal passage for those fleeing the Taliban and we stand ready in Camden to welcome refugees seeking safety.

Camden has a long and proud history of helping refugees, often stepping in where government has failed to take action. We will welcome families into our borough and give them the support and help they need to rebuild their lives.

We will work with all of our partners and local community organisations to offer the best help we can to families who find themselves in this desperate situation. This is not a political issue; it is a humanitarian one that must have support from all political parties. But if government is serious about putting local government at the centre of this response, then we urge Ministers to recognise the desperate situation we find ourselves in. We need more money to build new homes, and we need it fast.

The government have reduced our funding by half since 2010. And we’ve been stopped from raising £30m through rent increases because of the rent cap. Our funding needs to be increased and the rent cap lifted.

Camden’s Housing, Health care and Education support packages for refugees are detailed on our site and consists of: 

  • Housing: Housing to cover both the initial emergency accommodation and longer-term housing for refugees.
  • Food support: No-one arriving in Camden will go hungry.
  • Health care: Refugees will receive the physical healthcare and mental health support they need.
  • Education: We will work to ensure all refugee children are able to learn and develop while they are in Camden, and make sure there is high quality school or early years place for all Afghan children who settle here.

Housing

In their first few weeks in Camden, refugees from Afghanistan are being supported in hotels managed by Central Government.

The first of these hotels enable refugees to initially complete their 10 day isolation quarantine safely and the second ‘bridging’ hotel provide a base while their longer-term housing needs are arranged.

Camden is working with its voluntary and community partners to support refugees while they are in these hotels.

On arrival at the hotel, refugees receive information packs covering health, care and education, tailored to the immediate area in which the hotel is located.

The packs provide information about a range of near-by services providing additional wrap-around support to ensure refugees have access to the items and services they need.  

Other support Camden and its partners are providing to refugees in hotels includes: 

  • Practical support: We are working with community groups and foodbanks including QCCA, Castlehaven, Kentish Town Community Centre, Cooperation Kentish Town and Salvation Army to support refugees arriving at hotels with food and sanitary products.
  • Health care: North Central London CCG have commissioned AT Medics to provide immediate onsite healthcare support for refugees living at the bridging hotels. The service includes meeting acute healthcare and prescription in addition to an antenatal clinic, COVID vaccination clinics and a mental health offering. 
  • Education: Schools who receive a significant demand for school places from newly arrived families will get specific support from our family early help team. We are already providing education for children and young people in the Camden hotels and will identify school places for school children coming from Afghanistan.

Longer term housing need

Camden Council is offering support to families assisted under the Government Resettlement-ARAP- scheme including accommodation, financial support, needs assessment and support with resettlement and integration.  

We have identified five social housing properties in Camden to house Afghan refugees and are working on securing more.

However, we presently have 6500 people on our housing waiting lists, all of whom have needs.

We need Government funding to secure homes in the private rented sector for the vast majority of refugees in Camden.

Help and support

Camden has always been a place ready to welcome refugees – we are here to support people when they are at their most in need, provide them with safety, shelter and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. 

We have collated a list below of refugee support organisations including education, health and mental health support, food and essential item support, citizen advice and key charities for refugees or key stakeholders to contact.

The Refugee Council 

The Refugee Council’s Infoline connects refugees and people seeking asylum with organisations that can help. To contact the Infoline, please call Freephone number 0808 196 7272. The Infoline is a live national Freephone line open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday between 9.30am and 12.30pm. Interpreters can be arranged for those who don’t speak English. 

British Red Cross

Support with basic essentials such as bedding and clothing and support and befriending to help settle into the UK, know your local area and register with local services. They can also support with family tracing and run an international reunification programme. For the London office, email LondonRU@redcross.org.uk or call 0207 704 5670

For advice and information on the asylum process

Refugee Legal Centre provide legal advice and representation to those seeking asylum in the UK 

Migrant Help are the primary source of advice for people requiring help with their asylum claim, asylum support and Refugee Resettlement programme. Call 0808 8010 503

Survivors of torture and/or trafficking

Helen Bamber provides all-encompassing care for those who have suffered torture, or trafficking, including sexual assault. Including legal protection, medical advice, therapy, housing and welfare, community and integration and counter trafficking.  

For Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children 

The Refugee Council runs a ‘Children’s Advice Project’ and has received a very high number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children from Afghanistan over the last 30 years. The team provide one to one support and social activities for this very vulnerable group for children from all over London and beyond.  

Information for refugees in Dari and other local languages

  • Save the Children Afghanistan have provided a family activities pack in Dari and Pashto with lots of ideas for games to play whilst quarantining 
  • UNICEF Afghanistan- Further activities and booklets in Dari and other local languages- awaitingaccess to these documents 
  • IOM A children’s welcome to the UK pack in English. This includes info about weather, food, money, regions and customs in the UK- being edited currently

Contact Jessica Farrand, jesssica.farrand@camden.gov.uk, for copies.

Other contacts

Refugee Action 

Their London Asylum Crisis Project provides housing and financial advice and they also run a number of resettlement support groups, which may well be updated as Afghan families are offered permanent resettlement places.

Get involved

Information on how to support Camden’s Afghan Crisis Response 

We know many of our faith, voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations and members of the public want to know what they can do to support refugees from Afghanistan arriving in London. 

At the moment, most newly arrived Afghan Nationals are in hotels managed by central Government where their housing and wider support needs are being assessed. Refugees are likely to be moved to more permanent accommodation outside Camden over the coming weeks and months. 

We are working to identify the needs of residents, and thanks to the generosity of our VCS partners faith communities and members of the public, we have been able to provide deliveries of clothes, toys and nappies, as well as other essentials including electrical and religious items. 

This is an evolving situation and ways in which people can support and help are likely to change over the coming weeks and months. We’ve listed below the ways in which support is best targeted at the moment and will update this as we get further information. 

Wish list 

We have set-up a wish list so we can update items that are needed in real time. Items such as clothing and toiletries can be purchased via our wish list and will be delivered to Afghan refugees in hotels. If you are able to contribute, please visit the Wish List

We understand that not everyone wants to contribute via Amazon so we are currently looking into alternative options and have applied for an account with In Kind Direct.

Donation centre and hub locations 

Phoenix Court: 2 Brill Pl, London NW1 1DX Drop off times 1pm-4pm Monday Friday

We are working with Phoenix Court to collect new items and match them to peoples individual needs. This is a donation point for new items which can be easily transported. 

If you are an individual or a business looking to make a large scale donation, please email communityresponse@camden.gov.uk to speak to us about how else we can accept your donation. 

There are also Voluntary Organisations which are collecting items for both the Afghan response and other Refugee groups in Camden. Please email if you would like to support. 

We are specifically looking for: Winter clothes, cold/wet weather items, Baby/Children’s equipment and shoes for adults or children.  By donating via this hub, they will be matched to an individuals or families specific asked for items.

Donations 

We are asking people not to organise donations unless specific items are requested. In general, we are asking for new items only.  We have completed needs analysis of hotel residents- these needs are being provided for from the wish list and via partners who have been providing donated items. The council has worked with a large number of VCS organisations to meet the initial humanitarian need and continues to do so. 

Current demand is for outerwear for all ages, specifically, coats, hats/gloves/scarves and winter shoes/boots. 

We are aware that there are large numbers of local residents and organisations who are looking to support in their own way. Often the most obvious way is the donation of second-hand items. We have predominantly provided new items in order to preserve the dignity and respect of the Afghan community relocated temporarily to Camden hotels.

Unfortunately, due to the scale of the response, we do not have the capacity to sort and process second-hand items. If organisations wish to support by collecting used items, we recommend that they speak with refugee support organisations such as those named at the bottom of this briefing. 

For those that would like to contribute by purchasing new items, please do so via the Wish List above. 

Access to services 

Our on-site teams and colleagues in the NHS have been working with hotel residents to get them registered at local GP practices and healthcare services. We have also been working with families to enrol those children that are ready in local schools. For those that are not ready we are working with our children and young people professionals to deliver alternative education provision. 

Hotel residents are also being supported to access Camden’s Library network, as well as the range of Camden Sports and Leisure Activities via the GLL gyms boroughwide. All Afghan nationals in Camden hotels will be issued with a library card which means people will be able to access IT equipment at libraries, join activities and sessions for children and families, as well as borrow books. 

Access to activities 

We are working in partnership with many locally based organisations to deliver a programme of activities specifically for Afghan families and to provide access to existing community activities. Partners such as Coram’s Fields and Calthorpe Community Gardens are delivering play and sports activities for children and young people, as well as providing access to community spaces for adults and parents. 

Many families have already registered at these organisations so that they can access the general programme of activities. These programmes are being developed and delivered in consultation with Afghan families and are responsive to the needs of hotel residents. 
If your organisation is based in the south of the borough and has existing capacity and funding to deliver bespoke sessions or activities for Afghan families please let us know by completing this pro-forma. We have received generous offers from organisations based in the centre and north of the borough however we are focussing our efforts on activities in the south and the local vicinity of the bridging hotels.  

If we are in need of a specific type of activity, we will put a call out to see which organisations might be able to provide assistance. 

Unfortunately, due to the high numbers of offers of support received, we are not always able to respond to all individual enquiries. 

Restricting access to hotels- on site activities, workshops, classes, or deliveries of donations  

We have been approached by many organisations who want to deliver activities or sessions on site at hotels or distribute donations. Whilst we recognise that these kind offers of support are both generous and well meaning, there is a strict policy on restricting access to hotels. We are organising specific sessions for hotel residents based on needs, for example ESOL classes and Road Safety Awareness. Where there is a need, we are inviting specific services or organisations in to deliver relevant sessions/ activities. We are working with the Red Cross and Re-Act to provide deliveries of donations to the hotel and, unless specifically invited, no other organisations will be permitted access. 

Volunteers 

We are working with a number of organisations who have been providing volunteer support including language and interpreting support as well as family liaison. 
                                        
Please note that in the first instance we are working with volunteers who are known to our VCS and Faith partners. We may not be able to contact everybody who has volunteered their support. 

Some examples of how volunteers are supporting our work include: 

  • Matching volunteers with teaching/ ESOL experience with our Adult Community Learning teams to support English conversation classes 
  • Working with volunteers from UCL to deliver activities for children and young people  

Due to the sensitive nature of the work, anyone working directly with refugees will need to undertake a mandatory 2-hour training session (details under training below). 

As we develop our programme of support the key volunteer roles we are seeking are as follows: 

Translation/ interpreting- speakers of Dari/ Farsi and Pashto can help provide language support and interpreting for people as they access local activities and amenities. We may also require volunteers to translate written material. 

Due to the nature of the work, anybody providing translation/ interpreting support directly to hotel residents will need to have a current DBS check or be willing to have one, and will need to have completed the mandatory 2-hour training (please see details below) 

We particularly welcome offers of support from people who have a background in working with refugees, or people or families who have experienced trauma. 

Education, teaching, ESOL- many refugees are likely to be moved out of Camden in the coming weeks and months. Some families may not want their children to enrol in school before they are more settled and other children are not yet ready for a formal education offer. 

We are developing programmes of alternate education provision and would welcome offers of support from people with skills and experience of teaching, delivering educational activities or programmes and those with ESOL skills. 

We know that there are many skilled people from Afghanistan who have arrived so we will be working with hotel residents to identify volunteer roles that will supplement existing skills and areas of expertise and support hotel residents to develop their own programmes of provision. 

Due to the nature of the work, education volunteers will need to have a current DBS check or be willing to have one, and will need to have completed the mandatory 2-hour training (please see details below) 

Welcome and orientation- at the moment we are working with a number of partner organisations whose volunteers are supporting our work around local orientation. We may need future assistance with this which will include volunteers accompanying hotel residents to local activities and services, such as stay and play activities for children or to local libraries etc. 

Due to the nature of the work, volunteers will need to have a current DBS check or be willing to have one, and will need to have completed the mandatory 2-hour training (please see details below) 

Sorting donations- we have received generous donations of new items and are currently working with partners to sort and distribute these. Volunteers who may want to help with this are asked to make contact via the Time to Spare volunteering hub or directly with Volunteer Centre Camden, where offers are coordinated and directed onto the most suitable place. Please also see the volunteer opportunities with VCS partners below. 

Volunteer opportunities with VCS partners 

One of our partners, Little Village has several volunteer roles they are currently recruiting for. Little Village is like a foodbank, but for clothes, toys and equipment for babies and children up to the age of 5. Little Village has grown to be one of the largest ‘baby banks’ in the UK, supporting over 11,000 children since it launched in 2016.  Families are referred via a network of over 1,800 professionals such as midwives and social workers.  Little Village’s vision is that every child in the capital has the essential items they need to thrive. 

Little Village has various roles which can be done at our site in Somers Town or remotely, at various times throughout the week.  

  • Stock sorting on site – Helping us sort through all our wonderful donations to ensure they are suitable to be gifted to families.
  • Packing for families on site – Putting together bespoke bundles for our referred families.
  • Pre-Bundling on site – Packing generic bundles for different ages and genders.
  • Volunteer drivers – Helping us to deliver packed bundles in a hired van or their own car to family homes and hostels. 
  • Home sorters – Collecting donations from the community centre to take home and sort through and then bring back to the hub 

If you are interested in volunteering directly with Little Village, please sign up here: 
https://littlevillagehq.org/volunteer-with-us/

If you are an individual who is interested in volunteering, please register via Time to Spare. We are creating a database of individuals that we can contact as we have a clearer idea of the volunteer tasks that will be needed. Please note that we may not be able to contact everyone who has registered but we appreciate people’s kindness and generosity. 

Training 

Our partners Hopscotch Women’s Centre are delivering an introduction to cultural awareness and trauma informed approach training session which will be mandatory for staff and volunteers directly working with refugees. It is a 2- hour online session and details will be shared with volunteers who have registered via Time to Spare. 

Hopscotch fundraising appeal 

Hopscotch Women’s Centre is fundraising urgently for supplies and permanent help to Afghan refugees in Camden. Thanks to people’s generosity thousands of pounds have been raised so far. Hopscotch Women’s Centre has been able to provide Afghan refugees with essential and religious items including Korans, headscarves and foldable prayer mats. Funds are now being used for their Refugee Family Advocacy work, to provide vital support and guidance for the wellbeing of those who have fled danger. If you are able to contribute to this appeal, please donate to the Hopscotch Women’s Centre Fund

Little Village Crisis Fund for Afghan Children in London 

Help Little Village coordinate the London-wide response for 0-5s and distribute critical warm clothing and nappies to children in temporary accommodation. Little Village has supplied Afghan families in hotels in Camden with bundles of clothing, nappies, toiletries, toys and activity packs, as well as other essentials such as bottles and formula. If you are able to contribute to this appeal, please donate to the Little Village Crisis Fund

National campaigns 

We are also working with Care 4 Calais, The Lewisham Donation Hub and the British Red Cross who are running national campaigns which people can donate to. Other national organisations are providing vital support, such as work with unaccompanied minors, and running fundraising appeals.