At its most recent full meeting on Thursday, October 21, a debate was secured to discuss the recent withdrawal of British and US troops from Afghanistan.
The motion came from members of South Tyneside Council’s ruling Labour Group and set out several pledges including council chiefs writing to Government ministers on certain issues.
This included calls for ‘full resources’ to support those who have fought and been positioned in Afghanistan over the past 20 years and increased support for families seeking refuge.
Councillor Ruth Berkley, launching the motion, said she was proud that South Tyneside had a “history of welcoming those who have fled war conditions as refugees and asylum seekers.”
Sea fret - a look at the foggy phenomenon which spoils sunny days in South Shields
South Shields man jailed for terrifying physical and sexual assault on woman in her own home
South Tyneside man given jail warning after breaching court order
13 great pictures as the sunshine sees crowds flock to South Shields beaches
The 16 places where most crime was reported across South Tyneside in June
She also noted the role of borough volunteers who have helped to signpost refugee families to schools, local transport, libraries and government organisations “without fanfare or publicity.”
Cllr Berkley went on to say: “South Tyneside has a population of 155,000 residents across 72,000 households – we believe that amidst these large numbers we can find a very small number of homes for those fleeing for their lives.
“We have space and we believe we have a community who will help us integrate new families into a tolerant, strong and safe community.
“South Tyneside as an authority recognises our place not just at local, regional and national level but also internationally at times of crisis.
“By passing this motion we can create a legacy that we can give to those who supported us in Afghanistan, those who lost their lives or had their lives irreversibly changed through injury or experience in this conflict and for all the families and all those who lost loved ones.”
Councillors heard that South Tyneside Council had agreed to house five refugee families from Afghanistan as part of the government’s resettlement programme.
Labour councillor Margaret Meling added that future work for local authorities, partnerships and the voluntary sector around supporting refugees and both serving and retired military personnel “must be properly funded.”
An amendment to the motion was proposed by councillor David Francis, leader of the council’s Green Group, which included a specific resolution with regards to unaccompanied children seeking asylum.
It instructed the council’s chief executive to write to the Home Secretary to “express the council’s dismay at the government’s refusal to introduce a mandatory rota for the national transfer scheme” and to raise other issues.
This included concern that the “wider care crisis means that councils are struggling to fund and find placements for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.”
Cllr Francis went on to say: “Certainly I would welcome the work that has been done so far to support refugees, not just children but refugee families as well, adults and children.
“The amendment asks us to pledge to take a more active part in the national transfer scheme and to express some additional specific concerns to the government.”
However, the amendment failed to win support across the council chamber with nine votes in favour and 38 votes against.
The original Labour motion was then agreed, with 46 votes in favour and one abstention.