Five hotels, hundreds of volunteers and a frenzied operation to welcome Afghan refugees

We speak to the charities involved, plus the rest of our Monday briefing

Dear Millers — we hope you had a lovely weekend. In today's briefing we have a great report on the Afghan refugees arriving in Greater Manchester and how you can help, a very grand Home of the Week in Tameside and news of a wonderful audio tour in South Manchester which lets you learn about the people who live and work on local streets.

But first! If you were listening to Radio 4 about an hour ago, you might have heard a great segment about… The Mill. The World at One programme interviewed Dani while she was out reporting in Harpurhey and came to our office too. “The room is decorated with historical newspaper front pages, a throwback to a more halcyon time before Google and Facebook disrupted the industry,” the reporter says. It also features a lovely comment from one of our top Millers — Dorli Nauta. To listen back, head to BBC Sounds and go to 30 minutes and 50 seconds in.


Catch-up

Our piece about the Greater Manchester servicemen and their stories from Afghanistan last week was one of our most popular stories this month. Read it here, if you’re a Mill member. “We did some pretty awful stuff in Afghanistan that I’ll probably never, ever speak about,” one of the men told us.


⛅This week’s weather


Covid-19 update

  • Cases: The case rate for Greater Manchester is 298.4, down 4.8% from last week, compared to England’s 325.5, up 5.9%. Infection rates are highest in Tameside, around 300. The lowest is in Bolton, in the region of 200.

  • Hospitals: There were 62 Covid-19 patients in critical care in GM hospitals last week, down from 69 the week before. That means we are at roughly a third of the peak level we saw in February. The total number of patients in our hospitals with Covid-19 minus critical care patients is 302, down from 314 the previous week. The full hospital data is here.

  • Vaccinations: Just over 1.6 million people in GM have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and that figure was last updated a week ago. 92% of over-70s have received their second dose, 85% of 50-69s and 51% of 18-49s.


The big story: Refugees arrive in Manchester

Top line: The arrival of Afghan refugees is in full swing, and 1000 have already reached Greater Manchester. The MEN reports:

More than 1,000 people fleeing Afghanistan have been accommodated in Manchester hotels as the government scrambles to evacuate people from the crisis-torn country.

For several weeks before the Taliban seized total control of the country this weekend, the town hall had already been working with the Home Office and Foreign Office to place people fleeing to safety in initial quarantine.

It is understood that at present, capacity in the three hotels being used in Manchester is therefore full and the government is seeking to place people in other parts of the country.

On the ground: Many refugees are spending a quarantine period at Radisson Blu Airport Hotel near Manchester Airport, and a charity worker told The Mill that five hotels in total in Greater Manchester are accommodating Afghan refugees.

The context: The Home Office announced a programme to resettle 20,000 refugees in the long term and 5,000 are expected by the end of the year, suggesting Greater Manchester is taking a larger share than other areas.

  • Andy Burnham said last week: “We’ve now hit a point where we think all local authorities should step forward or be required to step forward so that we can make this a manageable situation.”

  • A rescue mission in Kabul is evacuating 4,000 British nationals and Afghans who helped British forces, and nine more flights are expected in the next 24 hours. The UK has "hours now, not weeks" to complete its evacuation, the defence secretary Ben Wallace said today. British troops will leave Kabul airport when US forces withdraw next Tuesday (31 August).

Local goodwill: The news of the arrivals has inspired a wave of charitable donations. At Beetham Tower in Deansgate this weekend, the foyer was bustling and the ground floor was covered in bags of children’s clothes, blankets and new pairs of shoes. “It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?” A volunteer called Jainaba told The Mill. Volunteers for Care 4 Calais were run off their feet fielding donations across the city and finding places to safely store people’s things.

People waiting to flee Afghanistan at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Photo: Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Charity action: Clare Moseley, the founder of Care 4 Calais, told us that when she got the news that five airport hotels in Greater Manchester would be accommodating refugees, she panicked. “Volunteers were saying, oh my god, how are we going to support two more hotels?”

  • She put out an appeal on social media and within hours, donation points were overflowing. Charitable donations from locals now fill five storage units.

  • “We’ve all been working really hard to sort the donations,” she says. “It’s not just a case of collecting them and chucking them at refugees, they need to be really carefully quality-checked and sorted.”

Help out: Care 4 Calais is urging more donations, saying they particularly need smartphones so families can tell their loved ones they’re safe and start learning English. The full map of drop-off points in Greater Manchester can be found here. Clare also stressed cash donations are important as some things like underwear have to be bought new. “We do really need cash to make things happen,” she says.

Volunteer appeal: Amir Raki from the charity Caritas Salford is taking donations and asking for children’s toys, pushchairs, and personal hygiene products. But the thing they need most is people, he says:

I think the main thing that we need is people volunteering their time and their experience and expertise, and spending time with these individuals, for personal development, learning the new language, the new culture, having that sense of confidence and being part of a community.

Coming up: Clare told The Mill she’s expecting refugees to move out of GM hotels and “be dispersed much more quickly” into housing after the quarantine period in hotels is over.


Home of the week

This grand 4-bedroom Victorian house in Tameside is on the market for £675,000 and has attic rooms, fireplaces and some exposed brickwork.


Other local news in brief

  • Pride controversy: Manchester’s former Lord Mayor Carl Austin-Behan has waded into the row over Manchester Pride in an interview with Manchester Confidential. “It's not just Mark Fletcher's fault it’s the whole board, because they've allowed this to happen. Remember what it should be about. Remember what it was for — not for people's egos and people's own self gratification,” he says. Read more.

  • Education failings: An ombudsman has found Manchester council failed to find suitable education for a young autistic boy who was deemed medically unfit to attend a mainstream primary school. Delays in finding him a special education school and poor communication meant the boy was out of school for months and caused “stress and upset” to his grandmother. Read more.

  • Surprise pregnancy: A Chadderton couple has welcomed an unexpected addition to their family. Georgia Crowther, 20, who says she was unaware she was pregnant, experienced stomach cramps after a night out with family for dinner. Her partner Calvin Home told 999 dispatchers: “Oh my god it’s a f****** baby.” Read more.


🕵️‍♂️  If you want to tell us about a story or pass us some information, please email joshi@manchestermill.co.ukmollie@manchestermill.co.uk or dani@manchestermill.co.uk. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch…


Our favourite reads

This long read in The Spectator examines why the emergency services took so long to arrive at the scene of the attack at Manchester Arena in 2017. “At the side of the injured and dying were police officers and first aiders from the arena, who rushed to their help. All were desperately under-equipped to deal with what they were seeing, and all of them were expecting, indeed pleading, for back-up.”

We loved this interview in The Guardian with Manchester dubstep band Space Afrika who “bleed Salford” and are “totally ourselves — Black artists in the 21st century”. Drawing influences on dub-techno from Berlin and Detroit, they have composed a “dark ambience” to their music. “This is a scene with genially combative Mancunian swagger — not in the sense of the anoraked rock bore, but an inclusive, globally connected upgrade of the probing wit of Tony Wilson or John Cooper Clarke.”

In 2013, Howard Jacobson wrote The Swag Man and this excerpt in Tablet Magazine offers an evocative account of what it was like being a market trader in 1950s northern England. “A worker was a grafter. Those who did more than just stand behind their stalls like shtummers waiting for the punters to come to them, those, that’s to say, who yelled and shouted and performed like auctioneers or snake-oil salesmen, were pitchers.”

This feature from The Times explores a war veteran from Preston’s “brutal and gruelling” challenge of ascending every Lake District mountain barefoot, in memory of his close friend and fellow marine who died in an ambush in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. “It’s a much more natural way to run. It improves your posture, your cadence — we weren’t born with trainers on. But I’m not a barefoot pusher,” he says. “I don’t go to Tesco barefoot.”


Photo of the week

We love this photo of nuns and babies at the Duchess of York’s Hospital for Babies in Burnage in 1939. On summer days babies would spend the whole day in the sunshine, and when the weather was warm enough, sleep out in the open overnight.


Things to do

Audio walk | Starting on Thursday, you can take a self-guided audio tour of Northmoor Road in Longsight, listening to the recorded tales of local people, including “the greengrocer who used to keep pigeons in Pakistan, the cake maker who grew up in the shadow of the Himalayas, the cleaner who grows sunflowers on her balcony”. The audio is in English and Urdu. More details here.

LGBT exhibition | There’s an audio-visual exhibition at Kampus on Canal Street from this Thursday which we think looks interesting. The exhibition displays stunning portraits of LGBT people, alongside audio recordings of their lived experiences. More info here.

At Manchester Art Gallery, go and see this painting of Maharajah, an Asian elephant bought as an eight-year-old by the famous Manchester Belle Vue Zoo in 1872. It shows the scene when he arrived in Manchester, and the zookeeper and tollgate keeper reached an impasse over the charge for the elephant to cross the road. Maharajah wrapped his trunk around the fence, pulled it off its hinges and walked through.

Manchester dance | I M Pact dance collective will be showcasing the best of Mancunian dance talent this Friday at Manchester Museum. Organisers say that the show will be “echoing archives of our planet’s past or tantalising lesson for a future yet to be told.” Book here.

Autistic-friendly art | There’s a free creative session for autistic children and their families tomorrow from 10am at Manchester Art Gallery, with a quiet room available and artists and staff on hand to help kids find their creative spirit. Find out more.


Book of the week: Bernard and Pat

Bernard and Pat is an arresting and ambitious debut by Salford student Blair James. It tells the story of a young girl named Catherine, and her days spent with her childminders. Through the lens of a child, it explores her understanding of time and the strange nature of memory and trauma.

I sat with my whole body on the seat of the sofa, staring at James’s audaciously ignorant face. He stared at the TV screen, at his programme. Life was so easy for him. No one ever told him no. No one ever said stop it James. My tiny fists clenched and dug deep into the cream leather.

Bernard and Pat is available to buy here.


Letters to the editor

This is the kind of thing I subscribe for (‘How China sees Manchester’) — something no one else can provide. Jacklin’s unique perspective and commentary is enlightening, informative and excellent. Well done, great article, thank you! Leah, Old Trafford

Thank you for explaining what is happening with Manchester Pride in your Monday briefing. It sounds like a tale of miscommunication, but also of an organisation that has become complacent. These kinds of arguments can be healthy. Important institutions — whether it’s the council, major businesses or in this case Manchester Pride — need to be challenged and scrutinised. That used to happen in the newspapers, but with far fewer journalists operating in Greater Manchester (we used to have two very well-staffed newspapers in Wigan…), much of it happens on social media now. Nothing wrong with that. Joe, Wigan

Please send your letter to editor@manchestermill.co.uk with your name and where you are from.


That’s it — you’re all caught up.