To date, the Government has resettled around 12,200 people through the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and over 9,100 through the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). All those resettled through ARAP and ACRS are granted indefinite leave to enter or remain, meaning they have the immediate right to work, as well as access to the benefits system.
Given the unprecedented speed and scale of the evacuation from Afghanistan during Operation Pitting and the following months, we welcomed those eligible into bridging hotels and serviced apartments as a temporary solution until settled accommodation could be found. On Tuesday 28 March, I made it clear in my update to Parliament that the Government did not consider it acceptable that over 18 months after Operation Pitting, around 8,000 people remained in temporary bridging accommodation, over half of whom had been there for over one year. I announced our intention to step up our support, backed by £285 million of funding for local authorities, to help families make arrangements to leave their bridging hotels and serviced apartments; and move into settled accommodation where they can put down roots and integrate into communities across the country.
Since my last update, we have issued legal notices to quit and individualised communications to households living in bridging accommodation, setting out when their access to that accommodation will end. Residents received at least three months notice to leave their bridging accommodation, as well as clear guidance on the support they can access through local authorities to help them find their own accommodation. We have also ensured that enhanced, multidisciplinary case working teams have been present in every bridging hotel and serviced apartment, working closely with households to support them through the process. For local authorities, we have made £7,100 per person of flexible funding available to support move-on, including through providing deposits, furniture, rental top ups and rent advances.
This Government remains committed to ending access to costly hotels and serviced apartments at the end of the notice periods that we have issued to Afghan households. However, as a final measure of goodwill, there will be a small number for whom time-limited interim accommodation will be provided, including where they have been pre-matched to settled accommodation and there is a need to bridge a short gap between the end of a notice period and that confirmed accommodation being ready for them to move into. Interim accommodation will also be provided in cases of medical need where a family member requires continued attendance at a specific hospital. Everyone else will be expected to have left bridging accommodation by the time their notice period expires. For some this will be at the end of this month.
Today I am writing again to all local authorities, reminding them of the extensive funding available from central Government to help find settled housing solutions and strongly encouraging them to draw on these to support and match as many households as possible into settled accommodation.
This is the right thing to do - both for the taxpayer and for the Afghans we have welcomed to this country and who deserve the opportunity to live self-sufficiently here in the UK.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords