Afghan refugees to get at least three months' notice to move out of hotel accommodation from end of April

March 28, 2023

Afghan refugees who were housed in hotels after fleeing the Taliban takeover of Kabul will be given at least three months' notice to leave their accommodation from the end of April.

Veterans' minister Johnny Mercer said the government would "step up our support to help resettled and relocated Afghans access independent settled accommodation and end the use of hotel bridging accommodation".

He said the government would begin writing to individuals and families housed in bridging hotels at the end of April and would give them "at least" three months' notice as to when access to the accommodation would end.

Mr Mercer said £35m in new funding would be provided to local authorities to help them provide increased support for Afghan households to move into settled accommodation.

Those who turn down an alternative offer of accommodation would not receive a second offer, he added.

Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey accused the government of giving Afghans "the cold shoulder".

"Never mind operation warm welcome, never mind the warm words from the minister today. He has confirmed the government is giving them the cold shoulder," he said.

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Outlining the measures in the Commons, Mr Mercer said: "These measures represent a generous offer - and in return for this, we do expect families to help themselves.

"Whilst this government realises our significant responsibilities to this cohort there is a responsibility upon this group to take the opportunities that are offered under these schemes and integrate into UK society.

"Where an offer of accommodation can be made and is turned down, another will now not be forthcoming. At a time when there are many pressures on the taxpayer and the housing market, it is not right that people can choose to stay in hotels when other perfectly suitable accommodation is available."

He said trained staff would be based in hotels to help Afghans with information on how to rent in the private sector, find a job and learn English.

'An unacceptable and unsustainable situation'

Approximately 9,000 Afghans have been supported into settled homes so far, the veterans' minister confirmed, while around 8,000 remain in hotel accommodation.

Mr Mercer said: "Around half of this cohort are children and around half have been living in a hotel for more than a year.

"My colleagues have indicated that this is an unacceptable and unsustainable situation - the government shares that view."

Mr Mercer's announcement comes after Rishi Sunak told his cabinet that while UK was a "compassionate country that does want to offer protection and support to those most in need", "the cost of the current approach and the pressure it puts on local areas meant it was not sustainable".

Mr Mercer said the cost to the UK taxpayer of housing people in hotels now stands at £1m a day.

Last August, Sky News reported the Home Office had warned Afghan evacuees they could be evicted if they turned down two offers of accommodation.

'This is not how those who were promised a warm welcome should be treated'

Labour called on the government to ensure no Afghans would be made homeless when they were served with "eviction notices" from hotel accommodation.

Mr Healey said despite the minister's assurances, there was "no guarantee they will be offered a suitable, settled place to live".

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The move has also been criticised by some charities.

Enver Solomon, the Refugee Council's chief executive, said: "We are deeply concerned about many elements of these plans, in particular the risk that they could lead to people who fled the Taliban in Afghanistan being left homeless and destitute on the streets of Britain.

"This is not how those who were promised a warm welcome in the UK should be treated."

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: "To ensure we do not see a further rise in homelessness as a result of a chronic shortage of properties across the UK and increase current significant pressures on homelessness teams, councils will need sufficient resources and flexibilities to assist with finding and funding accommodation, particularly for larger families.

"We will continue working with government to tackle the current shortage of accommodation across local communities and on the need for coordination of local arrangements so councils can provide families and individuals with certainty and support."

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