Afghan Resettlement

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at on 7 September 2023.

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Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

What assessment he has made with Cabinet colleagues of the progress made on moving Afghan people from hotels to settled accommodation.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

What recent discussions he has held with Cabinet colleagues on supporting Afghan people who have been resettled in the UK to access independent accommodation.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)

Hotels are not and never were designed to be long-term accommodation for Afghans resettled in the UK. I am therefore pleased to say that, as of 1 September, in line with our promises, no legally resettled Afghans remain in bridging accommodation. As I told the House on 18 July, there is a small number for whom time-limited contingency accommodation will be provided, including where there is a need to bridge the short gap between the end of notice periods and settled accommodation being ready for them to move into, and in cases of medical need, where a family member requires continued attendance at a specific hospital.

Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the new Afghan families to North Devon and thank everyone locally who is working to ensure that their resettlement is as smooth as possible and to give them a true Devonian welcome?

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)

I thank my hon. Friend for her question and pay tribute to all those working locally in her constituency to prepare to welcome Afghan families to the area. North Devon is steeped in military history. I am pleased to see her long-standing support for veterans extend to those who assisted the UK in Afghanistan as well.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

I record my admiration for, and thank, the many public and voluntary agencies and individuals in Fife for the dedication and compassion that they have shown to the Afghans they have hosted over the last two years. Sadly, those Afghans are becoming victims of the biggest mass eviction that Scotland has seen since the highland clearances. When we remember that those people are here because they risked their lives for us—they risked their lives in Afghanistan for democracy—why have the Government not even considered a Homes for Afghans scheme, similar to the Homes for Ukraine scheme that made such a difference to desperate Ukrainian refugees?

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)

Largely because these are two different cohorts. Ukrainians are looking to return to Ukraine in the future; the Afghan cohort are staying here and will be in this country for an indeterminate period. We are looking at all ways that we can continue to assist those who have come over from Afghanistan. I, too, pay tribute to all the Home Office liaison officers and all the staff in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and in the Ministry of Defence who have worked hard to get this over the line. I said that we would honour our commitments to the people of Afghanistan and we will continue to do so.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security)

The Minister will be acutely aware, as I am, that around 2,000 Afghans who are entitled to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy are stuck in hotels in Islamabad. I know that he has seen the letter that went to the Prime Minister, which I signed along with other colleagues. What is the plan to get those 2,000 ARAP-entitled Afghans into settled accommodation?

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)

The hon. Member knows that this has been a long-standing concern of mine, both before Government and in Government. My area of specific responsibility in terms of getting people here and into hotels and accommodation has been completed. That is a Home Office area, and I have not had discussions on it so far, but everybody is aware of our commitment to the people who served in Afghanistan, and the Government will follow through on their commitment to those people.