MP pleads with Scottish councils to house more Afghan refugees
Victoria Atkins, the UK minister in charge of resettling Afghan refugees, has urged Scottish councils to house more families amid growing concerns over a lack of homes available in England.
It has been revealed that the Home Office may need to use Airbnb properties as shelter for the refugees, with Ms Atkins also asking businesses with accommodation, such as hotels, to consider giving those who left Afghanistan in recent months a chance of a new life.
Mr Atkins said barely half of Scotland’s local authorities had offered to resettle any of the 3,000 families who fled to the UK when the Taliban regained power after a 20-year absence.
A previous Syrian resettlement scheme brought over and immediately housed around 450 to 500 people a month, but the sudden collapse of the Afghanistan regime saw 15,000 people evacuated over a few days, and many are still in hotels as “bridging accommodation”.
Speaking to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association at the Home Office yesterday, Ms Atkins said: “These are people who have extraordinary potential, and I would love every single corner of the United Kingdom to help support us and realise that potential.
“If there are employers in Scotland who would like to offer employment and are able to offer accommodation, then please, please let us know because we’d love to hear from you.
“Of the 32 local authorities (in Scotland), I think 18 have been kind enough to offer homes, and obviously we’d love to persuade the others to do so as well.
“That’s my plea, not just to Scottish local authorities but any local authority across the United Kingdom that hasn’t yet been able to make a formal offer, we’d very much like you to.”
A council source said up to 29 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities had offered help, The Herald reports.
In August, Airbnb’s charitable arm, Airbnb.org, said it would house up to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide for free or at a discounted rate.
Ms Atkins said Airbnb lets could be a temporary solution for families in the UK. She added: “This is at a very early stage, but we just want to give you an idea of what we’re thinking about.”
Ms Atkins repeatedly refused to say how many permanent homes had been agreed for Afghan refugees and rejected the suggestion her pleas sounded “desperate”.
An Airbnb spokesperson said: “We are continuing our positive talks with the Home Office about resettlement efforts in the UK.”
The Scottish council umbrella group Cosla said its members had welcomed around 260 people from Afghanistan since July