COUNCILS and charities across the North East are gearing up to do their part in aid of Afghan refugees.

As the Taliban strengthen their grip on power in Afghanistan many Afghans have been forced to flee the country for their own safety.

The UK Government has announced that it has plans to take as many as 5,000 Afghan refugees in the first year with plans to expand to take 20,000.

The Northern Echo spoke to a number of councils and refugee charities across the region about what their plans are to help.

Many councils said they have plans in place and are making preparations to support resettlement.

North Yorkshire County Council has already announced that it will be supporting eight families who have supported British troops in Afghanistan.

Neil Irving, Assistant Director for Policy, Partnerships and Communities said:

“North Yorkshire is offering safe homes to Afghan workers who have supported the UK armed forces in Afghanistan, but who now more than ever face a threat to their lives in that country, as NATO forces complete their withdrawal.

“The UK Government has been running a scheme since 2013 to support locally employed staff in Afghanistan in recognition of their commitment and bravery in supporting UK military forces.

"These are mainly interpreters, who worked in often dangerous and challenging situations,

“So far the councils in North Yorkshire have agreed to resettle about eight families.

"The people we are welcoming to North Yorkshire have shown great courage in supporting British troops in the face of high personal risk.

“Thanks to thorough preparation by the organisations involved, we are confident that their settlement and integration will be safe and as smooth as possible.”

Durham County Council also confirmed that is was committed to the government's resettlement programme.

Gordon Elliott, Durham County Council’s head of partnerships and community engagement, said: “We can confirm that as with councils across the country we have been approached by the government about the resettlement of families from Afghanistan. In line with our commitment to offering humanitarian support to appropriate numbers of vulnerable individuals through the government-funded UK Resettlement Scheme, we are assisting with this emergency situation.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “Hartlepool has a history of welcoming people seeking refuge from persecution and we stand ready to play our part again, together with the other local authorities around the country, during this present crisis. We are currently liaising with the Government on the details of this.”

Refugee charities have also made preparations to help Afghan refugees over the coming months.

Darlington Assistance for Refugees has been working with Syrian refugees alongside Darlington Borough Council for the last six years.

Fran Wood who works for the charity said: “We encourage the council to take more refugees under the resettlement scheme.

"It is one of the best resettlement schemes in the world.

“We have seen a massive increase in people wanting to volunteer for us.

"We have had a further six people ask to volunteer in the last 24 hours.

" People have been so moved by what they are seeing on the news.

“The people of Darlington are very generous and every time we do a call out, we are overwhelmed with the number of responses.

“There’s a lot of people out there who want help.”