4,000 Afghans arrived to spend the winter in a temporary hotel in London
About 4,000 evacuated Afghans will still live in temporary hotels in London over Christmas and New Years, according to the London Councils, which represent London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation.
It has been five months since thousands of Afghan families were evacuated to the UK as part of Operation Pitting, after the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan sparked a humanitarian crisis.
The boroughs play a key role in providing comprehensive support to families living in hotels, including providing new clothes, organizing places in schools for children, organizing mental health support with local services from the NHS and translating public health advice on issues such as Covid-19.
To mark the holiday season and provide the warm welcome that is so important to a successful relocation, many London boroughs are working with local voluntary sector organizations to ensure that Afghans feel included in British traditions while respecting their religious and cultural origins. For example, an arrivals hotel in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is having an Afghan dinner on Christmas Day.
All London boroughs have agreed to support their fair share of evacuated Afghan families to longer-term housing, with some boroughs ready to relocate further.
The districts have also worked closely with the government services responsible for the resettlement of Afghans – mainly the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Leveling, Housing and Communities – to raise and resolve issues on the ground.
London councils urge the government to work with local authorities to ensure all evacuated families receive the care and support they need, with adequate housing being a crucial part of this.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, Deputy Chairman of the London Councils, said:
“The Boroughs of London are justifiably proud of the work they are doing to support the thousands of Afghans who served alongside British forces in Afghanistan as they rebuild their lives after the unimaginable trauma of fleeing their houses.
“Along with councils across the country, we are working closely with the Home Office and other government departments to ensure that Afghan evacuees receive the care and support they need, putting our knowledge and benefiting our local resources and making a real difference for these very vulnerable families.
“However, five months after Operation Pitting, the London boroughs want to see faster progress in moving the capital’s estimated 4,000 evacuees to longer-term, suitable accommodation. Hotel accommodation is not suitable for families and local services are struggling to keep up with demand.
“We urge the government to continue to work constructively with us so that Afghan families feel supported as they take root in the UK.”
The London Councils welcomed the government’s decision to provide British evacuees with resettlement assistance aligned with the Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Program (ACRS). The multi-stakeholder group also welcomed the government’s decision to increase the offer of resettlement assistance for Afghans from one year to three years and to clarify how and when local authorities will receive the funds.
However, the London boroughs are supporting Afghan evacuees alongside their other responsibilities to refugees and asylum seekers living there, who are already putting enormous pressure on local services and housing in the capital. For example, the London Boroughs support thousands of asylum seekers in emergency hotels and provide accommodation and support for around a third of all unaccompanied asylum seeking children in England.
London Councils are working closely with the government to address key challenges in supporting Afghan asylum seekers and evacuees and are working to support an acceleration of resettlement in the new year.