Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, who writes for the Mirror below, is meeting council chiefs in a bid to persuade more to offer places to vulnerable refugees seeking sanctuary
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Just one third of councils have offered to rehouse Afghan refugees so far as ministers boost efforts to persuade more to help out.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will meet local government chiefs in the coming days to drum up more support for the resettlement programme.
The Government is already working with more than 100 councils across the UK to meet the demand for housing, with over 2,000 places already confirmed.
But around 5% of local authorities in Britain – almost 20 – have already refused to take in vulnerable Afghans, with several citing lack of available housing.
Ministers are urging more councils to “step up” to join around 130 that have already agreed to provide homes for thousands who have fled persecution.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick writes for the Mirror below
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan resettlement minister Victoria Atkins said: “We’ve had firm offers from at least a third of councils and we’re in talks with many, many more, so I’m confident that number will change over the coming days”.
Councils are being offered £10,000 for each arrival to help provide them with accommodation and support, including access to health and welfare services and schools.
A further £5m has been offered to help provide housing across England, Wales and Scotland, with extra available to help find larger homes for Afghan families.
Political leaders in the North of England have promised to welcome refugees from Afghanistan but said they must be distributed fairly across the country.
Analysis shows the areas which house the most asylum seekers are among the most deprived.
Almost one in four of the UK’s 44,825 asylum seekers supported by the Home Office are housed in just 10 local authorities, including Middlesbrough, Cardiff, Rochdale and Glasgow.
Only one of the top 10 – Barking and Dagenham in London – is in the South with some other local leaders claiming they are constrained by the lack of affordable housing.
Thousands of families are currently in quarantine hotels after being evacuated from Kabul with ministers drawing up plans to take in 20,000 refugees over the next five years.
A Government spokesman said: “Only 5% of councils have declined to sign up to our relocation and assistance scheme and close to a third of councils have already stepped up to support new arrivals, but we know there is more that can be done for those that have risked their lives supporting us.
“We are calling on all councils who have not yet come forward with a firm offer of support to help Afghan nationals and their families as they build a new life here in safety.”
‘Meeting interpreter’s family was humbling’
By Robert Jenrick, Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary
We owe more than we can imagine to the translators and support staff who worked with our Armed Forces and diplomats in Afghanistan.
Families have had to flee from their homes and all they knew, pursued by threats from the Taliban because of their support for our troops. Many thousands of fellow Afghans have arrived here now securing places through the government’s resettlement scheme (ARAP).
We’re ensuring that those who have arrived have the certainty of leave to remain, the security of access to healthcare and education, the opportunity to build a life in the UK.
Earlier this week I met a family who recently arrived, who are being supported by the community in Newark while plans are put in place to move them to a permanent home in the next few weeks.
It was a humbling experience. The father had served as an interpreter with British special forces in Helmand. He managed to get his wife and their four beautiful girls out of Kabul, and was immensely grateful for the warm welcome he had received in our country. He said if he could, he would like to serve in the British Army.
And I’ve been heartened to see and hear of other examples of our communities extending their welcome to families arriving up and down the country.
We are working hard across government through ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ to ensure Afghans arriving in the UK receive the vital support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education and integrate with their local communities.
With the welcome support of councils and the British public we will do everything we can in the days, weeks and months ahead to make sure that those fleeing Afghanistan are able to make a success of a new life in the UK.