Co-op Group steps in to offer help to Afghan refugees

Actions include an initial donation of £250,000 to charity Refugee Action

The Co-op Group has mobilised its members, customers, community groups and charity partners to help Afghan refugees. 

Led by its charity, the Co-op Foundation, which has made an initial £250,000 grant to Refugee Action, a national charity that helps refugees to rebuild their lives, the Group says it is acting as a catalyst for those wanting to respond to the crisis following the military withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

The Co-op Foundation says the grant is the start of a national collaborative effort and is calling for wider support for the reform of the refugee protection system by inviting other funders, businesses and organisations to join the campaign. 

The Foundation’s grant will help Refugee Action to: 

  • Provide direct support and advice to people who’ve fled to the UK from Afghanistan and other countries through its own front-line services and in collaboration with a nationwide network of community organisations.  
  • Build public support to help campaign for a more sustainable, compassionate and welcoming refugee protection system.  
  • Empower refugees and people in the asylum system to influence the issues that matter to them. 

In addition to the Foundation’s grant, the Group is working hard in communities to support refugees through its vision of Co-operating for a Fairer World.  

When members buy selected Co-op branded products and services, 2p for every pound spent is shared equally between the Local Community Fund for local causes and a new Community Partnerships Fund, that supports  communities through like-minded national charities and organisations. Co-op members have raised over £200,000 for local groups working with refugees in recent years.

The Co-op Academies Trust already offers places to recent migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum and the Trust has written to all directors of education where Co-op Academy schools are located to indicate its willingness to take additional children from the newly arrived Afghan community. 

Related: What co-ops are doing to help refugees build better lives

The Group adds that many of its 1,000 Member Pioneers across the UK are connected to groups working with refugees. 

CEO Steve Murrells said: “It’s heartening to see communities across the UK come together to support and welcome Afghan refugees who’ve been evacuated and are now arriving in the UK.  

“As an organisation that has close affinity with 1,500 communities across the UK, the Co-op is in a unique position to mobilise support for these brave and traumatised people who are leaving behind their country and, in some cases, their families – beginning what will probably be a long journey to start a new life in a foreign country.” 

Nick Crofts, Chief Executive of the Co-op Foundation, said: “The scenes in Kabul have made a big impact on public opinion, and we believe there is now an opportunity for funders and charities to work co-operatively to make a difference. Our focus is on immediate support for Afghan refugees in crisis and longer-term positive change for the wider refugee and asylum system. 

“By being quick and nimble, the Co-op Foundation has been able to award our largest single grant to date to respond swiftly to this humanitarian crisis. 

“I know many of our people want to do something and so I would urge them to donate to Refugee Action or any of the other charities working in this sector. We know we are at our strongest when we all co-operate.” 

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “We are so grateful to the Co-op Foundation and to everyone across the Co-op for their support at this crucial time. The scenes from Afghanistan, of people fleeing in terror from the Taliban, have united us all in horror and grief. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen first-hand the depth of that horror while we provided round-the-clock emergency support to evacuees from Afghanistan arriving to UK airports.  

“Now we look ahead to the enormous challenge of ensuring everyone seeking safety in the UK from Afghanistan and around the world is welcomed, supported, and treated with dignity. So, there could not be a more welcome time to begin this vital new partnership with the Co-op Foundation and have a powerful voice join our urgent calls for a strong and compassionate refugee protection system.”