Duke of Cambridge surprises Afghan refugees with a welcoming visit in Leeds

Prince William gave new arrivals to the UK a surprised yesterday, when he popped by a community centre in Leeds to greet refugees who recently fled Afghanistan.

The Duke of Cambridge stopped by a hotel in Leeds to talk to families who had left the country after the Taliban quickly regained control, to see how they are adjusting to life in Britain, as well as how charities and local agencies are supporting them.

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The visit highlights the welcoming and diverse communities in Britain who have been uniting to help others, Kensington Palace said.

William heard how the refugees were being helped to integrate in the local community and are being given mental health support. Aid is coming from local community groups, the council and the Refugee Council.

During his visit, the Prince watched a group of children play in the hotel, as he was also told about the donations made by the community and local organisations, such as clothes, toiletries and other essentials.

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A family who fled said the Duke had a ‘warm and welcoming’ message for the refugees in the city.

Hossain Saeedi left Afghanistan three months ago with his partner and their 10-year-old son and recently moved into a house, reports the BBC. “It was a great pleasure for us to meet with a member of the Royal Family, we didn’t know about it until the very last minute so we were very excited when we knew,” he said.

“He came with a very powerful, warm and welcoming message for the refugees, I think it was a very important visit.”

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Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, talks with refugees evacuated from Afghanistan, who are being accommodated at a hotel in Leeds, to see how they are settling in

“We’ve lost our friends, our network, our job, our life, and now we have to make everything from the beginning,” Saeedi commented. “We had been told that people living in the north were very welcoming and I can endorse that.”

During the visit, the Duke spoke directly to Afghans who are newly arrived to the UK, and those more settled in the community, about their experiences and challenges as they have fled Afghanistan and arrived in Yorkshire.

He told families: “The most important thing is that you are safe now. You have a bright future. You couldn’t be more welcome. Thank you for all you have done for us.”

The visit came the same day that all 15 Yorkshire and Humber councils announced their pledge to welcome around 1,000 refugees under the Afghan resettlement programmes. Most Afghans involved in the programme supported the British forces’ work in the region, or are refugees whose lives were in imminent danger.

300 people have been resettled in the Yorkshire and Humber area so far, reports the Yorkshire Post, while12,000 refugees are being housed in hotels across the rest of the country.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, also met the Prince in Leeds. He said: “You can tell it means a lot to him and he’s really engaged with the issue, he wanted to know what the situation was like for Afghans not just in this hotel in Leeds but right across the country.

“He was really keen to understand some of the challenges they face when they have to try to integrate into the community and what can really help them.”

Prince William at the CATCH Centre in Leeds (photo via Catch Centre)

The Duke of Cambridge later visited the CATCH (Community Action To Create Hop) Centre in Harehills, the northeast part of the city, which supports young people with recreation and leisure activities to prevent them being drawn into anti-social behaviour.

Activities include table tennis, computer games, film screenings, sports and even helping to care for animals at the urban farm.

William joined in a game at the table, before being given a tour of the farm, where he petted some goats.

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The Duke of Cambridge enjoyed the urban farm in Leeds (photo via CATCH Centre)

CATCH also provides a weekly activity session for children who have been evacuated from Afghanistan, providing the chance to socialise with other locals and improve their English language outside of a formal education setting.

The charity received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service from the Duke, to acknowledge their work in the community. The organisation told The Crown Chronicles: “The visit has inspired and motivated us to do more. It feels like all our work is valued.”

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