North West firms and business leaders have said they are actively looking to hire refugees from Afghanistan, with thousands of people attempting to flee the country after the Taliban seized back control.
The Government said on Friday it had evacuated nearly 14,000 people, 8,000 of those Afghan nationals, as the August 31 deadline – agreed with the Taliban for foreign troops to withdraw – gets closer.
This week, several business leaders across the North West have announced their intention to help Afghan nationals who have fled their country after being impacted by the crisis.
Tasneem Alonzo, joint managing director at Stockport-based EHL Ingredients, said: “We would love to interview any newly-arrived Afghan people, aged 18 and over, who can read and write in English.
“We reported earlier this month that we had 15 vacancies that we were struggling to fill. We have been on a recruitment drive and when we heard that many of the people flown out of Afghanistan were coming to Manchester, we wanted to make sure they knew there were jobs here once they are settled.
“Obviously, we know they have been through a very traumatic experience so this is once people are settled, housed, and feel ready to start new jobs. We will do all we can to support them.
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“We are happy to speak to any English-speaking Afghans who may be looking for work immediately, or in the run up to Christmas, as we will definitely have more jobs available. Full training will be provided and there are various opportunities and flexible shifts in our packing and blending departments.
“We would love the opportunity to welcome newly-arrived Afghan people to our business and we’re sure they would play a valuable role in our company, within the local community, and within the UK food industry.
“We have a very multicultural team here and new arrivals would be warmly welcomed by all our employees. It’s all hands on deck from now until Christmas so we’d welcome any additional workers to our team as we enter our busiest time of the year.”
Ms Alonzo said it was “vital” for businesses in the region to consider Afghan people for jobs, adding: “Firstly as we have a recruitment crisis and many business are struggling to fill jobs and secondly, as we want to do all we can to help the newly-arrived Afghan people feel welcome, a part of the community and society, and to give them opportunities to make a better life for themselves here in the North West.
“We’d urge the government to speed up work visas so people can apply for jobs and work here accordingly and legally.”
Under current rules, once someone is granted refugee status, they have permission to work in the UK in any profession and at any skill level.
Cera, one of the UK’s largest home car providers with bases across the region including in Oldham, Fleetwood, Stockport and Carlisle, announced on Thursday it wanted to train and employ 500 refugees from Afghanistan.
Paul Corcoran, chief executive of Liverpool and Manchester-based brand and communications agency Agent Marketing, is another business leader who wants to lend a hand.
He said the firm’s academy offering will look to launch a free programme for Afghan refugees offering them a roadmap of the digital landscape across the region, help with their CVs and a digital inclusion boot camp – covering expenses and travel.
He said the firm will also look to support Afghan refugees from an employment perspective – and will “see how we can support and bring people into the business”.
He added: “It’s about giving people a chance. We have a responsibility to be good citizens. This is a very civic business, we feel not just a sense of responsibility, but an absolute inherent sense of what is the right thing to do.
“If I or my team were turning up in a country where they didn’t know anybody, I’d want to know that there were firms or organisations who were going to do the right thing. We all need that, because no one knows what’s around the corner, and we’re at the grace of God with where we’re born and everything else.”
He said the firm will now reach out to partners across the city region including organisations providing aid, accommodation and housing associations.
Merseyside firm Ainsdale Gas is another firm that has actively looked into hiring Afghan refugees.
The firm’s Southport-based director Mike Sammon said: “We only have one vacancy but I thought we would register our interest because it would be great if all businesses did this.
“I don’t feel worthy of promoting it too much but perhaps some businesses have more availability.”
Mark Basnett managing director at the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said the organisation was ready to “to listen, understand and reach out to these groups and understand what we can do to support them to become part of the community”.