4,000 Afghan refugees to spend Christmas in London hotels

·2-min read
Operation Pitting in August (Jonathan Gifford/MoD/PA) (PA Media)
Operation Pitting in August (Jonathan Gifford/MoD/PA) (PA Media)

Around 4,000 Afghan evacuees will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation in London, five months on after their rescue.

London Councils, which represents the London boroughs, has called on the government to speed up permanent resettlement - saying the hotels are not suitable for families and that local services are struggling with demand.

It said boroughs were providing support to families living in the hotels - including new clothing, school places for children and helping with hospital appointments.

Thousands of Afghan families were brought to the UK under Operation Pitting which saw the military evacuation of Brits and eligible Afghans after the Taliban took Afghanistan.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, deputy chair of London Councils, said London boroughs were “proud” of the work they had done helping those who had served alongside the Armed Forces but insisted the government needed to move faster.

“However, five months on from Operation Pitting, London boroughs want to see faster progress on moving the roughly 4,000 evacuees in the capital into suitable longer-term homes,” he said.

“Hotel accommodation is not suitable for families and local services are struggling to cope with demand.

“We urge the government to continue working constructively with us so that Afghan families feel supported as they put down roots in the UK.”

Boroughs have pledged to support their “fair share” of evacuees into long-term accommodation, with some pledging to go further.

Some councils have also worked with voluntary groups to put on activities for the families over the festive period - such as a hotel in Hammersmith & Fulham which is hosting an Afghan dinner on Christmas Day.

However, London Councils said supporting Afghan evacuees alongside their other responsibilities for refugees and asylum-seekers living locally is placing “huge pressure” on local services and housing.

Minister for Afghan resettlement, Victoria Atkins, said the government was “proud” that the country had provided homes for 4,000 evacuees and school places for around 6,000 children in a short period of time.

“We will continue to work with local authorities and the private rented sector to secure permanent homes for Afghan families so they can settle and integrate into the local community and rebuild their lives,” she said.

“To provide long-term security, it is important we take the appropriate time and effort to find families homes that suits their needs, including taking into account family size and any vulnerabilities.”

Boroughs are supporting thousands of asylum-seekers in contingency hotels, providing accommodation and support to roughly one third of all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in England, said London Councils.

The organisation now hopes for an acceleration of resettlement in the New Year.

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