Council support for Afghan resettlement

Arrivals from Afghanistan to the UK will be supported by councils under two schemes.


Councils support humanitarian efforts to protect and support refugees and have delivered a wide range of support across different government schemes over many years. There has been 17,000 arrivals since April, with 15,000 people evacuated from 13 August 2021.  Those coming to the UK as a result of the recent evacuation and any future arrivals will be supported by councils and their partners under two schemes. Many councils are already offering pledges of support under both schemes, making pledges via Strategic Migration Partnerships. 

Those arriving through both schemes will be granted immediate Indefinite Leave to Remain. This gives rights to work and benefits and the option to apply for British citizenship.  The cross-government ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ has a focus on supporting new arrivals under these scheme to find work, pursue education and integrate into local communities. Victoria Atkins MP is the Afghan resettlement minister. 

Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP)

The existing Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme offers support and accommodation to current and former Locally Employed Staff and their families. Announced in January 2021, this programme has been open since April 2021 and builds on a scheme in operation which relocated just over 1,000 in council support since 2013. It is estimated that 7,000 of the recent arrivals are ARAP claimants. Councils have been supporting arrivals prior to the recent evacuation with accommodation and support. It was announced on 1 September 2021 that people already relocated to the UK under ARAP will be able to apply free of charge to convert their temporary leave into indefinite leave.  A government welcome page for arrivals to the UK from Afghanistan on the locally employed staff relocation scheme is available.

Afghan citizens' resettlement scheme

The Home Office will launch a full Afghan citizens' resettlement scheme. The Government has committed to take around 5,000 people in the first year and 20,000 over the coming years. This is in addition to those supported under the ARAP scheme. This will include the recently evacuated and those identified as vulnerable, with further work looking at safe routes from Afghanistan.  The scheme is not yet open. The scheme will prioritise those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law and vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk (including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT+).

Funding

Government has announced:

  • A core local authority tariff totalling £20,520 per person over three years:  £10,500, £8,00 and then £4,020
  • Funding will also be provided to support education, English language and health provision in year one.
  • £20m of flexible funding in the current financial year (2021/22) to support additional costs.
  • £10m in the first year for housing costs, with £5m available in year 2 and £2m in year 3.
  • £3 million of additional NHS funding under the ARAP scheme for access to healthcare and GP registrations. All are being offered the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • £12 million to prioritise additional school places, to provide school transport, specialist teachers and English language. Further funding for up to 300 undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships for Afghans at UK universities. Adults will also be able to access English language courses free of charge.
  • Families who need support navigating the system will also have access to liaison officers who can work with local authorities to help them get set up with a GP, National Insurance number, school place, accommodation and more tailored support, as required.
  • Families who need support navigating the system will also have access to liaison officers who can work with local authorities to help them get set up with a GP, National Insurance number, school place, accommodation and more tailored support, as required.

Housing and other support

Key challenges include sourcing accommodation. Those leaving hotels after quarantine are being placed in temporary bridging accommodation until more permanent housing solutions can be found, with councils, local partners and government providing interim wrap around support.

As well as the top up funding above, Government has also announced the removal of the Habitual Resident Test (HRT). Those resettling under the scheme now will be able to apply for social housing and homelessness assistance from 16 September regardless of their length of stay in the UK.  

Property owners or organisations are able to register entire homes that may be available for a least 12 months, either on a commercial or charitable basis, on the government's Afghanistan housing portal. The Government is urging councils to share the links with property owners, organisations, companies or individuals in their area to register their support via this website. The Ministry of Defence is keen to work with councils on using their accommodation, with Strategic Migration Partnership or MHCLG as the contact if any access issues arise.

Those who would like to contribute something other than entire homes, for example, fostering or donations, can visit the ‘Help refugees who have come to the UK’ page. The aim is for these offers to be shared with councils.

In addition to council support, the Community Sponsorship Scheme enables groups of friends and neighbours, charities and faith groups to directly support a families, with more information at www.resetuk.org.

British or non-British nationals in Afghanistan in need of assistance are directed to a government helpline

Arrivals from Afghanistan may also continue to come to the UK to claim asylum.

The role of the LGA

The LGA wants to work with government to clarify details of the new scheme so councils can continue to pledge support, plan effectively, and understand and meet needs. We are asking that future plans take account of learning from previous schemes including Syrian resettlement and current issues and learning from councils.

The development and delivery of the schemes need to recognise existing pressures on many areas, particularly around support for asylum seekers. Its needs to be underpinned by transparent data; appropriate, long term funding; and governance across councils and central government. Councils have raised concerns about use of hotels for asylum seekers and refugees, and stressed the need for better coordination if they or other forms of short term accommodation have to be used in a crisis.

Read the LGA's full current statement on 'Operation Warm Welcome'