Afghans who fled Taliban to UK ‘set to be made homeless at Christmas’

Mark Townsend

The Guardian

29 Oct 2023

Home Office has imposed a 15 December deadline to eject people who worked for UK in Afghanistan from hotels, say councils.

More than 1,000 Afghans in the UK face being made homeless days before Christmas after the Home Office imposed a fresh deadline to eject them from hotels.

The Local Government Association (LGA) revealed the number of at-risk Afghans, which includes families, after the Home Office last week imposed the new deadline of 15 December.

Meanwhile, separate new data reveals that more than 5,200 Ukrainian families are now receiving “homelessness support”, with 4,350 defined as homeless after relationships with UK families they were staying with “broke down”.

During a meeting on Thursday, council leaders pressed the immigration minister Robert Jenrick for more resources to help accommodate Afghans and Ukrainians, but none was offered.

Shaun Davies, chairman of the LGA, said: “Councils are becoming increasingly concerned over the numbers of Afghan and Ukrainian families presenting as homeless, which is likely to dramatically increase when Home Office accommodation is withdrawn as a result of the current clearance of the asylum backlog.”

An internal LGA briefing note on the plight of Afghan refugees who came to the UK in 2021 adds: “Councils remain hugely concerned that some families – some of whom are particularly vulnerable and will have ongoing medical conditions – may have to end up presenting as homeless, particularly given the lack of available housing stock for larger and multi-generational families.”

The LGA says some Afghans who served UK interests in Afghanistan could already be sleeping rough having been moved out of hotels by the government more than two years after being evacuated from Kabul.

In August, veterans’ affairs minister Johnny Mercer said he would have failed if Afghans who worked for the UK government ended up living on the streets. “That’s not happened. And that is not going to happen,” he said.

The crisis is compounded by a fresh arrival of Afghans who had been waiting in Pakistan for relocation and appear to have been housed in former Ministry of Defence properties, though councils believe it is likely some will have to be rehoused in hotels the government is determined to empty of asylum seekers.

The first flight bringing Afghan refugees from Pakistan to the UK arrived on Friday. Another 3,200 who have been waiting for UK visas after working for the UK government or the British army are still in Pakistan.

“Afghanistan households who were not included as part of the 2021 evacuation to the UK but are entitled to come as part of the existing resettlement schemes – potentially several thousand more people – are also likely to arrive in the coming weeks,” added the LGA briefing note.

Yet the situation facing Afghans in the UK is eclipsed by the level of homelessness experienced by Ukrainians who have fled the war with Russia. More than 4,000 have become homeless “due to their sponsorship breaking down” under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The LGA note adds: “The LGA has been raising concerns with government on the growing number of Ukrainians presenting as homeless, and in particular those families facing temporary accommodation.”

More than 100,000 Ukrainians are still being supported by households across England.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK made an ambitious and generous commitment to the people of Afghanistan and, so far, we have brought around 24,600 people to safety.

“We do not recognise the Local Government Association figures as the vast majority of those still in interim accommodation have been pre-matched to settled accommodation.”


Afghans who fled Taliban to UK ‘set to be made homeless at Christmas’