Twenty London boroughs sign up to house Afghan refugees as minister says ‘we need more’

·3-min read
 (Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

Twenty London boroughs have pledged to rehouse hundreds of Afghan refugees, but a Government minister has said "we still need more".

Across the country more than 300 councils have signed up to take in people forced to flee from the Taliban.

Many had worked with British or American forces meaning they and their families were at risk of being targeted.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins told the Standard: "Britain can hold our head up high with our response to this crisis.

"More than 300 local authorities have offered to take people in. That is great. But it’s not enough. We still need more."

Some 30 per cent of all Afghans evacuated to the UK have been placed in London hotels.

However finding permanent housing in the capital remains a problem.

According to London Councils 14 bridging hotels have been reserved in eight boroughs, for use as accommodation pending long-term housing offers.

Boroughs have pledged to source long-term accommodation and support for around 200 Afghan arrival families so far, the umbrella group said.

Some 15,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan by British forces when Taliban seized control of the country following the withdrawal of British and US troops.

But many more were left behind when evacuations stopped on August 31.

Victoria Atkins met Shukoor, who has been resettled by Hammersmith and Fulham council (Matt Writtle)
Victoria Atkins met Shukoor, who has been resettled by Hammersmith and Fulham council (Matt Writtle)

"My heart breaks for those still there and those here with family members still there,” Ms Atkins said.

“The security situation is very fast moving and difficult but we are doing what we can.”

One of the families which has made use of the resettlement scheme is Shukoor, his wife and three children.

The 46-year-old was working at the British Embassy in Kabul when the US announced it was withdrawing troops.

Because of his work, he knew he and his family would be in grave danger if the Taliban took the capital city. He fled with his two sons, aged 10 and six, and his heavily pregnant wife.

The family arrived in the UK on July 29 and spent two weeks quarantining in a Manchester hotel before being moved to temporary accommodation in London.

Shukoor, who asked that his surname not be used to protect his family still in Afghanistan, told the Standard: "It was a very scary time.

“I love my country but I knew we had to leave. Nobody was expecting the Taliban to come so quickly. We had no idea what was waiting for us here [in the UK]."

The family have now received a permanent home from Hammersmith and Fulham council and his two sons were placed in primary school.

The Government set up Operation Warm Welcome for those who risked their lives working closely with the British military and UK Government in Afghanistan to help them get access to health, education, employment support and accommodation.

Councils who support people through the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) or Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme receive £20,520 per person, over three years.

Those who resettle families will receive up to £4,500 per child for education, £850 to cover English language provision for adults and £2,600 to cover healthcare, the Home Office said.

"I’m very grateful for the support," said Shukoor. "My sons are enjoying their school and I want to find a job now. [But] I feel guilty. We are all here because of me.

“Some of my family are still there and because of my job we lost everything in Afghanistan. I have hope that my country will see peace and that my family are safe."

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