There is “no reason” that Afghans refugees should become homeless when they leave temporary hotels this summer, a minister has said.
Johnny Mercer confirmed that people still living in taxpayer-funded hotels and apartments will have to leave from as soon as the end of July.
Thousands are still living in temporary accommodation after coming to the UK after the Taliban’s takeover in 2021.
Labour accused ministers of “kicking them out onto the street”.
Shadow armed forces minister Luke Pollard likened Mr Mercer, the veterans minister, to a “bailiff serving the eviction notices”.
But Mr Mercer said the government had been “extremely generous,” and extra funding would be given to councils to help people resettle
Thousands of people fled Afghanistan after the Taliban took back control of the country in August 2021 after Western forces pulled out.
Around 21,100 Afghans have come to the UK under two separate schemes: one for vulnerable people and religious minorities, another for those who worked for the British military and UK government.
Those resettled through the two schemes have been given indefinite leave, as well as the right to work and claim benefits.
The government says around 8,000 people were still in temporary accommodation in March, of which around half had been there for over a year.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Mercer said “many hundreds” had moved out since then, but did not give a precise figure.
Although there had been progress in helping people move out of “costly” hotels, he added, there was more to do to help Afghans move out and achieve the “opportunity to live self-sufficiently”.
The government says notices to quit have been issued since April, and those being told to leave have received at least three months’ notice.
It says that there will be flexibility for those with medical needs and those waiting a short period before moving into confirmed accommodation.
It adds councils will be given an extra £7,100 per person to support those moving out with paying for deposits, furniture, and rent advances.
Mr Mercer told MPs there was “no tangible reason why any Afghan family should present as homeless” given the government support on offer.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said it supported the idea of getting resettled Afghans into permanent homes.
But it warned that finding the required amount of affordable accommodation would be “extremely challenging” given pressures on the asylum system and an “acute shortage” of housing.
“Councils remain hugely concerned that large numbers of families – some of whom are particularly vulnerable – may have to end up presenting as homeless,” added LGA chair Shaun Davies.
Source : BBC