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Defence Minister insists it is \’appalling\’ for refugees to be stuck in hotels almost 9 months on…

Defence Minister insists it is \'appalling\' for refugees to be stuck in hotels almost 9 months on...

MP James Heappey blames councils for delays

A defence minister has insisted it is “appalling” for thousands of Afghan refugees to be stuck in UK hotels more than nine months after they fled the Taliban.

But James Heappey blamed councils for delays in moving people into permanent accommodation and told MPs he is “desperate” for them to “step up” and help.

His remarks came as the Government announced it was opening the two remaining parts of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS).

Up to 20,000 refugees are expected to arrive under the ACRS, with individuals and families who were brought to safety under Operation Pitting – the initial British military rescue mission – prioritised in the first part of the scheme.

The two remaining routes will include allowing at-risk British Council and security contractors to be resettled in the UK and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to also refer refugees for resettlement.

But Labour MP Jessica Morden (Newport East) questioned how the UK Government can deliver on these commitments when an estimated 12,000 Afghans remain in hotels.

She told the Commons: “Family members of Afghan interpreters in my constituency who came to the UK under the Arap (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme are amongst the 12,000 Afghans stranded in the bridging hotels. This is shameful.

“How on earth can we trust the Government to deliver on the new pathways announced today if the Government has only accommodated a third of those who fled the Taliban over the last year?”

Mr Heappey, in his reply, said: “It is frustrating when the Ukraine refugee thing started the Government was criticised for outsourcing it to members of the public, and yet the reality is that if Government has to be responsible for it in its entirety people do end up being stuck in hotels until councils are willing to take people out of those hotels.

“I think it is appalling that there are Afghan refugees still stuck in hotels nine months after and I am desperate that councils around the UK step up and help us accommodate these people, who served our country with such amazing bravery and selflessness and are stuck in hotels because councils can’t accommodate them.”

All those resettled will be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, which includes the right to work and study, the Home Office has said.

Local authorities have been given funding to support those starting a new life in the UK, with £20,520 per person provided over three years.

The Home Office has also said they will receive extra funds for children entering education, to cover English language learning, and to cover healthcare.

Content provided by Radio NewsHub. Originally published on 2022-06-13 16:05:00.

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