Refugees: Afghanistan

Home Office written question – answered on 19th January 2022.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps he has taken to ensure that the Warm Welcome initiative continues for refugees who remain in bridging hotels.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, for what reason Afghan refugees who have given birth have been returned to a bridging hotel rather than rehomed.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to identify accommodation for Afghan refugees.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether her Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of moving people from bridging hotels into short term residential accommodation.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what discussions she has had with stakeholders on converting void and disused properties into accommodation for Afghan refugees currently in bridging hotels.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether she has a timetable for rehousing people currently in bridging hotels.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what discussions she has had with NHS property services on repurposing vacant NHS property to home Afghan refugees, including if it needs to be retrofitted.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister for Afghan resettlement

Operation Warm Welcome is a significant cross-government effort, working with local authorities, NGOs and the commercial sector, and will continue over the coming months to ensure those evacuated from Afghanistan can settle permanently, contribute to their communities and rebuild their lives here in the UK. The UK Government will continue to work with our international partners and use every lever at our disposal to fulfil our moral obligations, and we will provide a warm welcome to those who have fled persecution.

We are engaging with Local Authorities and housing organisations to explore options to meet the need for housing. We are working closely with Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities and other stakeholders to identify a range of alternative accommodation options to minimise the use of hotels and enable people to get into accommodation which enables them to settle into their new lives in the UK as quickly as possible.

DLUHC have created a new Housing Portal to make it easier for councils to assess the suitability of properties prior to contacting landlords. Offers of property are triaged by DLUHC and sent directly to councils. We are also looking at ways to make more suitable homes available in the private rental sector by engaging with landlords, letting agencies and industry bodies to promote the housing portal and encourage participation in the resettlement programme. We are also working with the Estate Agent Rightmove to identify potential properties available in the private rental sector.

There is a huge effort underway to get families into permanent homes as soon as we can so they can settle and rebuild their lives, and to ensure those still temporarily accommodated in hotels have access to healthcare, education, any essential items they need as well as employment opportunities or Universal Credit.

The length of time that a family will remain in bridging hotels is dependent on a number of factors including the availability of appropriate housing. We expect that whilst the hotel estate will reduce, there will be an ongoing need to provide temporary housing in hotels for a small number of families for several months. Where possible we prioritise matching properties to certain categories including those that are pregnant and have given birth.

As of the (6 January 2022), the latest available data shows there are over 12,000 people in around 80 bridging hotels. While work is ongoing to resettle families permanently as quickly as possible, they are receiving the necessary support required to integrate into society.

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