Dozens of Afghan refugees have now found safety in Bristol

By Adam Postans

A total of 61 Afghan refugees have arrived so far in the current wave in Bristol – with over 100 more expected in the coming days and weeks.

Emergency hotel accommodation paid for by the Home Office has been found for the new arrivals fleeing the Taliban in the biggest evacuation operation in recent history.

The figures have been confirmed by health chiefs at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) CCG as the scale of the work taking place locally to deal with the influx and ensure the Afghan families are looked after properly was revealed.

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Clinical commissioning group medical director Peter Brindle told a CCG governing body meeting that the right systems, processes and people were in place to keep up with the “relatively unexpected, quite significant collection of refugees” coming through the city.

He said the newcomers would be put up in temporary accommodation before being resettled permanently either in or outside the region.

Dr Brindle told the remote meeting on Tuesday, September 7: “The refugees arriving have been in a managed quarantine centre up until now where they have received very little if any healthcare intervention and no healthcare screening.

“So we will be ensuring every one of our refugees gets triaged, an initial screening using processes we’ve set up through our Haven general practice that is commissioned to support people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds.

“They already have a well-versed, gold-standard process for making sure any newcomers who come in from a range of extremely difficult experiences get assessed in the right way so we don't miss any gaps, whether that is in the infectious diseases area, maternity or mental health.

“They will be assessed by the Haven and following that they will be registered with a general practice.

“The major risk is while the Haven has the right skills and processes for doing this, they are a relatively moderately resourced organisation that isn’t designed to accommodate 160 sudden arrivals, so they are in the process of understanding what this means for them, what resources they currently have and what their resource needs are to meet this increasing demand.”

He said three community pharmacists were ensuring refugees who had run out of any medication were prescribed it without delay.

Dr Brindle said mental health and trauma support was also in place.

“We have a very able team who are considering all the needs the refugees will have,” he said.

Bristol City Council director of public health Christina Gray, who is leading a multi-agency team managing the immigrants, told the meeting: “What we are dealing with in Bristol is the arrival of a large number of people in transit.

“Every local authority has been asked to do permanent settlements, so alongside the management and welcome and holding of people in transit we have the work to do to make sure people are permanently settled.

“That will be going on across all our authorities.

“Bristol is a City of Sanctuary. We all feel proud to be part of this global response and do our local bit.

“We have been part of the Afghanistan resettlement programme for quite some time and this is another aspect of that.”

She said the response from the public had been “absolutely phenomenal”.

“People have already been coming forward to respond to our request to provide accommodation, people have made financial donations, clothes, volunteering,” she said.

“It is great to have the CCG powering up as this becomes quite a bit bigger.

“We will endeavour to do the best we can in these very tragic circumstances.”

CCG chief executive Julia Ross said: “The most important thing to remember is these are people who have had some really terrible experiences and we will continue to work with compassion and empathy to do everything we can to meet their needs.”

A CCG spokesperson said: “The Home Office is leading on the emergency accommodation for up to 168 Afghan refugees in Bristol, of which 61 refugees have arrived in the city so far.”

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