At the present time I would ask people not to organise social events where our Afghan arrivals are mixing outside their hotels with numbers of other people. There are several reasons for this:
- First, Covid numbers are still circulating highly in Hertfordshire and we expect a rise as children go back to school. Many of our Afghan arrivals have had health issues which mean their immune systems are stretched. Introducing Covid or flu to them is a serious risk and could potentially infect the entire hotel given that essentially, they live in a closed community for now – their hotel. This is why we have Covid protocols for people working with them.
- Second, we are in the process of arranging health screening for our Afghan arrivals for a number of conditions including TB and typhoid. Again, our Afghan arrivals have endured a great deal and we should allow them to rest and settle in, as well as go through the health screening and linking into health services they need, before we start organising major social events.
- Third, there is good evidence that on top of the psychological trauma they experienced in Afghanistan these past few weeks, the trauma of evacuation and arrival in a new country with barely any possessions, social events organised too soon can create a psychological and emotional burden on them. The advice from psychological trauma specialists is that people need time to settle, make sense of where they are and “breathe” before a round of social activities starts. I would ask you for the sake of their long term thriving to give them some short-term space.
The best advice for psychological and for physical health reasons is to allow them to settle in for a few weeks, obtain their health screening and build up both their physical and psychological resilience.
Before autumn arrives, the key objective for our Afghan arrivals will be to get them in the best physical and psychological health possible so they can start on the journey of recovery, growth beyond their trauma and a new life. It is in autumn and beyond, for those still in hotels, that we will need well organised social support for them to help them build community.
When the time comes, anyone organising events should be doing so either through VPAC or British Red Cross. But not now. The immediate priority is stabilisation of their physical and psychological health and addressing their health needs. We would ask people to be patient with us.