Hundreds of Afghan refugees in Manchester facing an uncertain future as hotels where they are living to close
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Hundreds of Afghan refugees who have been living in Manchester since fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of the country nearly two years ago are now facing uncertainty as the hotels where they are being housed are set to close.
The government announced last week that refugees who arrived under the Afghan Resettlement Programme will no longer be allowed to live in hotels.
It comes after the veterans minister Johnny Mercer said the £1m daily cost of housing around 8,000 Afghan refugees across the country – half of them children – is unsustainable.
There are currently 740 Afghan refugees who arrived in Manchester under the programme, with more across the city-region.
What is happening to Afghan refugees who are currently living in hotels?
All Afghan refugees still living in hotels – including three in Manchester which are accommodating a mix of families and individuals – will be written to at the end of April and given ‘at least three months’ notice’ to leave.
The government has announced a £35m package of ‘new funding’ to support those affected, while also expanding the Local Authority Housing Fund by £250m to help councils source homes for Afghan refugees in ‘bridging accommodation’.
A government spokesperson said: “We have announced substantial extra support to help Afghans into settled accommodation, putting an end to the insecurity that comes with living in hotels.
“Families will be given at least three months’ notice and we will do all we can to support them into accommodation before the notice period ends, including having dedicated staff based in hotels, so they can get the advice they need, including on how to rent, support to find jobs and access to English language training.”
However, concerns have been raised that some could end up homeless. Town hall bosses and local charities involved in the scheme say they first heard of the news through reports in the media.
What has the reaction been in Manchester?
Manchester City Council deputy leader Joanna Midgley said that the announcement regarding Afghan refugees living in hotels was ‘sudden’ and ‘unexpected’.
She said: “Manchester is a welcoming and diverse city and we have been proud to help support people fleeing from the horrors and trauma of the war in Afghanistan as part of the Afghan Resettlement Programme. These people have been living in hotels for far too long due to government delays in finding suitable move on accommodation.
“The sudden and unexpected announcement to close the Afghan Bridging Hotels from June is another example of this government’s inept handling of the resettlement scheme and the asylum system more widely.
“We are not sure yet what the impact of this move will be, but undoubtedly it will cause alarm and uncertainty and we will continue to work with all agencies involved to support those affected. We urge the government to ensure that this next step is fully funded and resourced and that no ends up homeless as a result.”
Local authorities have a duty to ensure that families at risk of homelessness have a roof over their head. The government has said it will continue to make assessments of their needs as part of decisions over local authority funding.