By Steve Murrells, Chief Executive

Watching the recent humanitarian crisis unfold in Afghanistan over the past few weeks has created fear and intense anxiety for many women and minority groups, including LGBTQ+, religious minorities, and people who’ve previously supported the Western Forces. 

It heartens me to see so many communities across the UK coming together to support and welcome Afghan refugees, with some 15,000 now arriving in the UK. As an organisation, we’re already working closely with 1,500 communities across the UK. This unique position allows us to quickly mobilise support for these brave and traumatised people. 

I’m pleased to announce that on 6 September, Co-op became the first retailer to mobilise our members, customers, community groups and charity partners to help Afghan refugees. Work was led by our charity, the Co-op Foundation, which has made an initial £250,000 grant to Refugee Action, a national charity that helps refugees who’ve survived some of the world’s worst regimes. They provide them with the essential support they need to live again with dignity, helping them build safe and productive lives here in the UK.  

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…The Co-op Foundation has awarded our largest single grant to date to respond swiftly to this humanitarian crisis while also helping to fund work that will support longer-term positive change for the wider refugee and asylum system. 

I know many of our people want to do something, so I would urge them to donate to Refugee Action or any 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.”   

  • Visit refugee-action.org.uk for more information about Refugee Action’s Afghan Arrivals Emergency Fund or to make a donation 
  • Read the Co-op Foundation press release here 

The sad fact is that so many Afghan refugees are now facing the daunting prospect of rebuilding their lives in environments and cultures which are alien to them. The resettlement process will be long and challenging for many.  

That’s why our vision of Co-operating for a Fairer World is now more important than ever. We’re in a unique place to bring people together to co-operate. I’m proud to say that as part of our Local Community Fund, we’re continuing to support thousands of grassroots communities, and, since round 1, we’ve donated over £200,000 to refugee groups and over £135,000 to veterans. 

The Local Community Fund supports community projects that: 

  • enable people to access food and co-operate together to feed everyone    
  • help improve people’s mental wellbeing   
  • offer young people opportunities to develop new skills and make a difference in their community  

Support for you  

Please remember that if the unfolding situation directly impacts you, please reach out to your line manager or other colleagues. Additionally, you can get in touch with Lifeworks, our employee assistance programme, 24/7 and visit our wellbeing site for information to find out more. 

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