An opposition councillor on Wokingham Borough Council has slammed the Conservative administration for its ‘measly’ commitment to support Afghan refugees.

Councillor Maria Gee, a Liberal Democrat representing the Wescott ward, called the council’s commitments ‘measly’ in comparison to others.

In a Tweet, Cllr Gee said: “So, Spelthorne is half the population and one third the area of Wokingham Borough – taking 58 refugees. Wokingham Borough Council isn’t it time we planned to take more then the measly two or three families we have committed to? UK Home Office 0/10 for effort, step up.”

Wokingham Borough Council confirmed it has pledged to take in three families who have fled Afghanistan, but cannot confirm the exact number of people who will be resettled.

READ MORE: Wokingham MP calls for migration to be limited amid Afghanistan crisis

 Cllr John Halsall, leader of Wokingham Borough Council (Conservative, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe) said: “At this stage, the resettlement of Afghan refugees is being led by Central Government and we are yet to hear whether any families will be placed in Wokingham Borough.

“That said, we are ready and willing to help these individuals, and have reached out to Central Government to offer support to three Afghan families.

“Culturally these households tend to be quite large, so the exact number of people is yet to be determined, but we are confident that we can offer immediate and long-term specialist support.”

According to the UN report ‘Household Size and Composition Around the World’ in 2017, Afghani households on average have eight members, compared to 2.3 household members in the UK.

As for the number of children born, Afghan women have 4.321 children compared with a fertility rate of 1.65 children among women in the UK. That is according to figures from 2019 provided by The World Bank.

Bracknell News: Evacuees from Afghanistan stand on the tarmac after disembarking from a U.S. airforce plane at the Naval Station in Rota, southern Spain, Tuesday Aug. 31, 2021. Credit: AP/ Marcos MorenoEvacuees from Afghanistan stand on the tarmac after disembarking from a U.S. airforce plane at the Naval Station in Rota, southern Spain, Tuesday Aug. 31, 2021. Credit: AP/ Marcos Moreno

Under the western backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, abortion was illegal, unless the life of the mother is in danger or the child has a severe disability. Although contraception is legal among married couples, their use was rare, with usage at 18.9 per cent in 2018 according to the CIA. It is unclear what the legal position of abortion and contraception will be in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.

In a previous statement, Cllr Halsall said council services will be mobilised to help any refugees settled in Wokingham Borough. He also encouraged residents to support refugees by donating to The Cowshed crisis support charity and the Reading Refugee Support Group.

Cllr Gee’s tweet contained a video clip of Cllr Lawrence Nichols the leader of Spelthorne Borough Council (Liberal Democrat, Halliford and Sunbury West) appearing on the BBC’s Newsnight programme: 

Cllr Halsall and the council did not specify what resettlement scheme the three refugee families had been brought to the UK under, and has not yet committed to taking in more Afghan refugees. Neighbouring Bracknell Forest Council specified that it will take in two Afghani families under the Locally Employed Staff (LES) scheme that was established prior to the recent Afghan citizens resettlement scheme formed on Wednesday, August 18.

In contrast, Cllr Nichols from Spelthorne said that his council will take in ‘towards a hundred’ refugees.

READ MORE: Bracknell MP praises Afghanistan evacuation but fears for women, children and LGBT+ people

Spelthorne Borough Council is under ‘no overall control’ but is governed by the Liberal Democrats and a coalition of other parties.

A total of 20,000 Afghan refugees will be accepted into the UK as part of the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme, with 5,000 Afghans being rehomed within the first year of the scheme.