UK Lacks Housing Stock To Help Afghan Refugees

The UK government is being urged to provide more funds to help accommodate people fleeing Afghanistan.

Many councils have complained that they do not have sufficient housing stock to welcome all the new arrivals.

A number of councils are asking private landlords with empty properties that could be used to home Afghan refugees to come forward.

Maidstone Borough Council is among a host of local authorities looking for self-contained properties with at least a six-month tenancy to help fulfil their commitment to supporting Afghan nationals arriving in the UK.

Cllr David Burton, leader of Maidstone Borough Council, said: “We are doing all we can to help these desperate people and are appealing to all landlords who can help to contact us.

“These extra properties are needed in addition to our usual housing requirements for local people who need accommodation as we do not have any extra availability in our current existing housing stock.”

There are three different routes for Afghans escaping the conflict: claiming asylum, the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) and the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme, which has not yet started.

Some councils have questioned whether the £5m fund for Arap housing costs – for people employed by or linked to the British government in Afghanistan – will be sufficient. They have called for this support to last for five years rather than 12 months.

Steve Cowan, the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council in west London, told the press: “Councils like ours stand by ready to assist Afghan refugees and are already doing so but we need the government to come forward with a comprehensive scheme that joins up the approach across government departments providing sufficient financial and organisational support.”

He added: “The £5m housing fund the government has offered all councils will be insufficient to meet the difference between rent prices and the benefit cap. That should be increased and apply for five years rather than the current one year if we’re to get private landlords to take on the necessary tenancies.

“Sufficient funding for healthcare, integration, education support, and employment training needs to be part of the scheme. It needs to recognise the pressures already felt in local communities relying on services or needing affordable housing.”

Fleur Anderson, the MP for Putney in Wandsworth, south London, who is trying to help about 130 UK Afghan constituents get family members out of Afghanistan, has urged the government to ensure the Afghan scheme works more quickly than the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme that she was involved with.

“In that scheme many Syrians were left in camps in Jordan for years,” she told The Guardian.

“Not only accommodation but also community support is needed as soon as possible,” she added.

Source: African Housing News

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