Sadiq Khan has urged Boris Johnson’s national government to do more to help refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan in London, producing figures showing that “thousands” of people fleeing the conflicts in their homelands are in unsuitable accommodation in the capital or at risk of becoming homeless.
The Mayor’s intervention, made on United Nations World Refugee Day, includes a call on the government to “urgently provide funding to local authorities and to voluntary sector and immigration advice services” and the launch of a City Hall web page, the migrant Londoners’ hub, which provides information about rights and services to newcomers from overseas.
City hall says that according to a survey of eleven civil society organisations working with 370 Ukrainians who have arrived in London under the government’s Ukraine Family Scheme, 89 were already “at immediate risk of homelessness” and 120 were in “unsuitable accommodation”. Problems include overcrowding, short-term tenancies and “relationships breakdowns with hosts”.
Far larger numbers were evacuated from Afghanistan almost a year ago – approximately 15,000 to the UK as a whole, with a further 1,500 arriving subsequently – of whom at least 4,000 were in short-term hotel accommodation in the capital at the end of last year, according to figures provided at the time by London Councils.
Forty homes acquired under the Mayor’s right to buy-back scheme, which enables boroughs to purchase homes previously owned by councils but sold under the government’s right to buy legislation, are currently serving as temporary accommodation for Afghans in Islington and Hounslow.
City Hall says government help for Ukrainian refugees should include providing councils with £10,500 for each one so that appropriate help can be given to avoid them falling into homelessness, and more funding for advice services to help refugees understand the UK’s immigration system and build new lives.
Khan rebuked the government for its “inhumane attempts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda”, saying it “serves as a distraction from the urgent need to make practical changes”. The Mayor has allocated almost £3 million in Greater London Authority funding to organisation helping migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the capital.
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