Yorkshire council in race against time to find homes for Afghan refugees

A council faces a race against time to find housing for dozens of refugees fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan.

Kirklees Council needs to identify where it can resettle potentially “significant” numbers of people – and whether it has the workforce to prepare homes so that they can move in. Their arrival is said to be “imminent”.

It has committed to accept 50 people and will get £1,026,000 in government cash to relocate them. That works out at £20,520 each over three years.

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However the number of arrivals could potentially increase to 79 under what the government describes as a council’s “minimum fair share allocation”. In that scenario the funding needed would rise to £1,621,080.

Kirklees Council has agreed to take in 50 refugees

The council’s new commitment to 50 people is in addition to 41 others still to be resettled under the existing Refugee Resettlement Programme dating back to 2015.

It says identifying suitable homes and making them ready for people to move in is “a pressure point”.

The council is holding nine of its own properties to be prepared for families, plus one property in the “limited pool” available from registered providers. It is also “exploring offers” from the private sector.

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There are concerns that the authority will not have the workforce to adequately prepare accommodation if “significant” numbers of refugees arrive within the next three months.

Housing chiefs say if staff are asked to do more on the resettlement programme “it is at the expense of other priority work” such as moving families out of temporary accommodation, “which some have now been in for a lengthy period.”

The funding package will also include up to £4,500 per child in the first year to cover education provision and £850 to cover English language provision for adults during the first year.

Funding of £4,500 will also go to each child of school age. Patient registration and mental health support will be covered by a further £2,600 per person.

The cohort of 50 people are deemed to be at risk following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. They fall within the government’s Afghan Citizen Relocation Scheme (ACRS), which prioritises certain groups.

They include those who have assisted the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights and freedom of speech, rule of law as well as vulnerable people and members of minority groups.

Another programme, Afghan Relocation Assistance Policy (ARAP), is available to people regardless of rank or role, or length of time served.

It provides for the principal applicant to bring with them their spouse and children aged under 18. They can apply for British Citizenship after five years in the UK.

People in both schemes will receive immediate indefinite leave to remain in the UK, or if previously admitted with limited leave to remain will be immediately eligible to apply for indefinite leave.

A report to the cabinet, set to be discussed on November 16, says: “The situation in Afghanistan escalated quickly and, as a result, the schemes to assist Afghan refugees under both programmes have evolved at pace and there is a pressing need for the Home Office to pursue relocation to permanent homes urgently.

“This urgency inevitably results in short timescales for notice of mobilisation of schemes in local authorities.”

Following the military evacuation in August there are more than 1,700 people across the country living in quarantine hotels.

What’s more there are cases across the UK – including one case in Kirklees – of families taking the decision to leave hotels and move to areas where they know family and friends.

The Home Office has revised the national arrival estimates to 12,000 minimum (7,000 ARAP arrived, plus committed to 5,000 ACRS), and a maximum of 14,000.