Permanent homes beckon for 8,500 Afghan refugees stuck in hotels

Members of the British and US Armed Forces working at Kabul Airport - Ministry of Defence/AFP via Getty Images
Members of the British and US Armed Forces working at Kabul Airport - Ministry of Defence/AFP via Getty Images

About 8,500 Afghan refugees rescued from the Taliban are to be moved out of hotels, the Government is due to announce on Tuesday.

Johnny Mercer, the Veterans Minister, is expected to tell the Commons that the Government will find permanent homes for the refugees, many of whom risked their lives working for Britain in Afghanistan.

Ministers are expected to commit as much as £750 million to providing support to the Afghans to find homes so that they can build new lives in the UK.

Under the plan, all Afghans in hotels are expected to receive three  months’ notice in April to vacate the hotels and will be offered one property that they must accept.

Any families who have not had an offer of accommodation or have turned down a property by the end of the three-month period will need to present as homeless. A council source feared it could mean hundreds of families could end up being homeless

Plans will be announced later this week also to start transferring the first asylum seekers from hotels to former military bases and potentially ferries.

Home Office figures show that it is spending more than £1 million a day housing Afghan refugees in hotels. Figures provided last week to the Commons Home Affairs committee revealed the Government had spent nearly £300 million on hotels for them in the nine months to September 2022.

9,667 remained in bridging hotels

That is dwarfed by the £5.6 million a day being spent on 51,000 asylum seekers being housed in nearly 400 hotels at a cost of £5.6 billion in the nine months to September.

It was not clear on Monday night whether the Government would set a timescale for removing Afghan refugees from hotels as ministers were engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations on the final shape of the announcement on Tuesday.

Some 21,450 Afghans escaped to the UK after the fall of Kabul in August 2021. By August 2022, 9,667 remained living in 66 bridging hotels in England, many of whom had large families.

Some 7,385 people had been moved into settled accommodation, or had been matched to a home and were waiting to move in. The government data does not include those who have made their own arrangements as some of the 21,450  were British citizens.

While in hotels, the Home Office has received funding to cover the care needs of the families, finding school places for children and sourcing permanent accommodation. For each individual resident of a bridging hotel, a local authority receives £28 per person, per night.

However, local councils have struggled to find permanent accommodation for Afghan families because of the need for bigger houses.

Once a household has been permanently housed away from the bridging hotel, the local authority receives £20,520 per person over three years. The Government will also provide £4,500 per child to cover education, £850 for adult English language support and £2,600 for healthcare.

Disused military bases and ferries

Later this week Robert Jenrick, the Immigration Minister, is expected to announce that thousands of asylum seekers are set to be moved into disused military bases and ferries as the Government begins efforts to end the use of hotels for asylum seekers.

The Government is expected to declare the “beginning of the end” of asylum hotels which are being used to house more than 50,000 migrants at a cost of nearly £7 million a day.

They will initially be moved into “decent but rudimentary” accommodation in former military bases which will be used to house single, adult male migrants. Ministers are also contracting disused ferries. However, plans to use student accommodation and holiday camps have been put on hold.