Councils will play a key role in supporting arrivals from Afghanistan resettle in the UK
Councils support humanitarian efforts to protect and support refugees and have delivered a wide range of support across different government schemes over many years. Over 300 councils have already offered pledges of support for arrivals from Afghanistan via Strategic Migration Partnerships. More than 4,000 Afghans have moved into permanent accommodation, with over 12,000 people still being supported by government. councils and local partners in around 80 bridging hotels. As well as supporting eligible British nationals, 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. Please contact your Strategic Migration Partnership for more information or to make an offer of support.
Afghan citizens' resettlement scheme (ACRS)
Government aims to resettle e 20,000 people over five years under this new scheme. This will include the recently evacuated and those referred by UNCHR from Afghanistan or other third countries. 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+).
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.
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. Those arriving through both schemes will be granted immediate Indefinite Leave to Remain which gives rights to work and benefits and the option to apply for British citizenship after five years.
Government has announced funding from 22 June 2021:
- 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.
Housing and other support
Key challenges include sourcing permanent accommodation. Families are placed in temporary bridging accommodation, with councils, local partners and government providing interim wrap around support. 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 current focus is on identifying one-bed and four-bed properties as there are significant numbers of two- and three-bed properties that have already been pledged.
Councils will receive the same integration support funding where a homelessness application has been accepted, with further clarification to be provided to ensure that the funding can follow the household.
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.