Headlines: July 24th, 2006

Local authorities around the country are standing by to help British citizens who are evacuated from the spiralling violence in Lebanon and who return to Britain without family and friends. The Local Government Association says a number of councils, particularly around the airports that are likely to be used to receive refugees, have put a series of measures in place.The Chairman of the LGA, Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, said authorities had put the wheels in motion to make sure people with no family to go to will have safe and clean places to stay. “After the awful suffering they have seen and experienced the most important thing for these people is a place where they can start to get their lives back together again,” he said. “The vast majority of people evacuated from the Lebanon will have friends or family in the UK that they can stay with. However, there will be those who have nowhere to go and no-one to turn to. It is these people that councils will help as quickly, efficiently and effectively as possible to help ease some of the trauma they have undergone,” Sir Sandy added.

Crawley Borough and West Sussex County councils are working with the Government Office for the South East and the Foreign Office at Gatwick Airport and have also received offers of help from Mid Sussex and Horsham District Councils. Similarly, Surrey County Council is liaising with a number of hotels around the M25 that could be used if there was a shortage of locally available accommodation.

Elsewhere Uttlesford District Council is working with the Foreign Office and BAA to make sure any people returning from Lebanon through Stansted Airport have a smooth transition. Essex County Council, the British Red Cross, Social Services, and the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service have all offered their support in the area. Around two other airports – Luton and Birmingham – authorities are on standby in case they are used to help in the evacuation.