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Afghan Refugees Move Into Wearside



Following the rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August, Sunderland City Council immediately volunteered itself to participate in a resettlement program led by the government to assist the families of those fleeing the war torn country. The refugees started to arrive in Wearside last month, with numbers rising throughout November, but not everyone has been met with a warm welcome.

The community however have responded to this news with a mixed reaction. Whilst some residents have been supportive and concerned for the wellbeing of the family, others have been less pleased. Currently no incidents have been reported and let’s hope it stays this way. Residents of the city are being subsequently encouraged to welcome and support the refugees with open arms and compassion, as opposed to venting fear and unwelcoming sentiments.

This follows refugees settling in Redcar and Cleveland after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan last month. Under the existing refugee resettlement scheme, two families who worked for the British in Afghanistan have been placed in the borough.

According to ITV News, Councillor Steve Kay, Redcar and Cleveland Council Cabinet Member for Health, Housing and Welfare, said the council has a ‘proud record of supporting those fleeing conflict and seeking sanctuary’. He added: “We have been part of the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme for a number of years and many families have successfully settled in our borough under that programme. We have already started to help Afghans resettle in this borough and will continue to meet our humanitarian commitment in line with central government guidance.”

The council have now announced further plans to accept more refugees under the newest government scheme. Redcar and Cleveland council are among many who have pledged to welcome and support families fleeing conflict in Afghanistan.

North East councils including Newcastle, Northumberland, Sunderland and Durham have all announced their plans on how they will contribute to the rehoming of Afghan citizens.

A spokesman for Gateshead council said: “We have a team of people in Gateshead dedicated to supporting and integrating refugees. We work with the North East Migration Partnership to help deliver the Government’s Resettlement programmes here in the region. Via this partnership Gateshead has been communicating with the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office to respond to the crisis in Afghanistan. In the past month we have welcomed a number of families and individuals from Afghanistan and going forward we will support more people.”

In September, the UK Home Office announced a scheme for Afghans that aims ‘to resettle around 5000 Afghan nationals at risk in 2021 and up to 20,000 in the longer term’ with priority issued to ‘women, girls and religious and other minorities’.

UK charities have also pushed the government to create safe routes into the UK for Afghans to claim asylum.

Last year, Redcar and Cleveland housed over 200 Syrian refugees under the governments Syrian resettlement scheme.

What do you make of refugees moving in to your local area? Let us know!


Michael Gove proposes House of Lords sit in Sunderland during Parliament refurbishment



Sunderland has been suggested as one of several locations for the House of Lords to relocate to while Parliament undergoes refurbishment.

York had been previously been proposed but the Government vetoed the plans.

Michael Gove, who is Levelling Up Secretary, is said to have written to Lord McFall of Alcluith suggesting locations including Stoke-on-Trent, Burnley and Sunderland.

In the letter, Mr Gove said he knows “cities and towns across the United Kingdom would be pleased to extend their hospitality to peers”.

He is quoted as saying that having “carefully reviewed the proposed arrangements”, he “will not support the use of the QEII Centre as an alternative location”.

The Queen Elizabeth II Centre conference and exhibition space is just a few minutes’ walk from the Palace of Westminster in London.

In the letter, which the Sunday Times said was also sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, Mr Gove suggested a move elsewhere in England, Scotland or Wales.

He is reported to have written: “As the minister responsible for levelling up, it is clear to me that the House of Lords moving elsewhere, even for a temporary period, would be widely welcomed.

“I have carefully reviewed the proposed arrangements and…I will not support the use of the QEII Centre as an alternative location.

“I propose to establish dedicated liaison points for you in my department to support you in identifying a suitable location for the House of Lords in the North, Midlands, South West, Scotland or Wales. I would, of course, be happy to meet you to discuss this.”

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Tyne Bridge to Close for Several Weeks for £41m Restoration



Several weeks of overnight closures are planned in order to allow engineers to assess how bad a state the Tyne Bridge is in, before it can be restored to its former glory.

The long-overdue restoration is estimated to cost £41m in order to restore the bridge and refurbish the Central Motorway.

According to a local authority report, the inspection is expected to require the famous crossing to be closed from 10pm to 6am from June 13 to July 1. A number of roads underneath the bridge on the Newcastle Quayside are also due to be affected by the works – with closures due between May 16 and June 10 on Quayside, Lombard Street, Queen Street, and Akenside Hill from 8pm to 6am.

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “We submitted a bid for £41.4 million to Government which, if approved, will enable a four-year maintenance programme for the Tyne Bridge and the Central Motorway to go ahead. As part of the funding process, we are required to carry out some initial works on the Tyne Bridge.

“This includes a full inspection of the bridge, so we can assess its condition and the scale of works required to finalise the costings and project plans to fully restore and refurbish this major structure. This needs to be completed ahead of funding being approved.

“As we need to inspect the entire span of the bridge, overnight closures may be required on the bridge and roads underneath it, so engineers can complete this work safely. Details on the programming are being finalised.”

The Tyne Bridge has not had any major maintenance for two decades and its much-needed refurbishment has been at the top of council officials’ to do list for years, in the hope of ensuring it is looking its best once again by its 100th birthday in 2028. However, it has been warned that the grade II* listed structure may have deteriorated into a worse condition than currently known and council bosses have warned that, like on other major projects like the Grainger Market’s roof repairs, the refurbishment may take longer than expected.”

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Seaburn and Roker Beaches Named Best Beaches in the Country in 2022



Sunderland’s beaches have been named among the best in the country for the 11th year running.

Seaburn and Roker were both named as winners of the Seaside Award by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. The pair were once again handed Blue Flags, marking them out for their for their excellent water quality, cleanliness and attempts to constantly improve visitor amenities.

The Blue Flag awards, now in their 35th year, are issued by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and act as ‘a quality mark so visitors can be sure the beaches boast top-notch facilities and meet the highest environmental standards’.

Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for Vibrant City, said: “It is fantastic to see Sunderland’s beautiful beaches once again awarded the prestigious Blue Flag and Seaside Award.

“Flying these flags at Roker and Seaburn shows everyone who visits that our seafront has excellent quality bathing water and first-class facilities.

“We’re very lucky to have fantastic beaches with beautiful, clean water to swim and bathe in, and this national recognition is testament to the hard work of everyone involved in keeping our beaches clean, tidy and well-maintained.”

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