London boroughs line up to receive Afghan refugees, though government scheme details still unclear

London boroughs line up to receive Afghan refugees, though government scheme details still unclear

Seven of the capital’s local authorities have informed the Home Office that they are able to receive refugees from Afghanistan with more expected to join them in the coming days, though key details of a new government scheme to resettle Afghans in the UK are yet to be announced.

Camden, Ealing, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kingston, Lambeth and Lewisham have informed the government they are ready to participate in the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, announced last week, which the government says will augment the already-existing Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy.

Others are expected to follow, with the leaders or Mayors of all 21 Labour-led boroughs having collectively pledged to “ensure Afghan refugees get the support they need”. Liberal Democrat-led Dem Richmond said last week it was in “early discussions” with the Home Office and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about the help it can give and Sadiq Khan has said the capital “stands ready to help“.

The government says its “ambition” is for the new scheme to allow 5,000 Afghans to settle in the UK this year following the Taliban takeover of the country and 20,000 in all to do so in the longer term.

A Home Office fact sheet says the government is “working urgently to open this route”, and that priority will be given to Afghans “most in need, including women, girls and children”. The government adds that “further details” of the resettlement scheme “will be released in due course”.

London Councils, the body that represents all 33 of the capital’s local authorities, has produced a briefing for its members, explaining the existing relocation policy and the promised new resettlement scheme.

The briefing notes that nothing has yet been said about “welfare and integration funding” being provided, whether Afghan arrivals will be granted permanent leave to remain in the country, the right to work and to claim benefits (as they are under the relocation policy), be permitted to register with GPs and to receive cash assistance and help with finding school places for children.

Even under the existing Afghan relocation policy some Afghan families are being placed in hotels due to a shortage of housing of a suitable size, the briefing says, creating a barrier to more boroughs offering help.

A case study from Ealing is provided of an Afghan family with four children being housed in the borough only because a Syrian family it had been earmarked for failed to arrive through the separate resettlement scheme for Syrians.

Updated on 24 August 2021 to include the names of the seven boroughs who have approached the government so far.

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