THE Homes for Ukraine scheme should be extended to Afghan refugees, two UK charities have said in an open letter to Michael Gove MP, the secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
A coalition of civic society thinktanks and refugee support groups – led by More in Common and British Future – pushed a Homes for Afghans Action plan on Tuesday (29).
The coalition urged Gove to set up a taskforce and extend the current Homes for Ukraine scheme to allow the British public to take in thousands of Afghans who escaped Kabul seven months ago; many of those refugees continue to live in hotels.
British Future director Sunder Katwala said, “The surge of public empathy for Ukraine is not limited to one group of refugees. We owe a debt of honour to the Afghans evacuated from Kabul last summer too.”
He added, “While there are some different challenges in finding homes for these two groups, we today set out practical plans for how Michael Gove and his department can link up these schemes to harness support from business, civic society and local government to speed up homes for Afghans too. That is how they can get on with rebuilding their lives by being welcomed into communities around the country.”
More than 100,000 British people have offered their homes for Ukrainian refugees and the level of popular support will likely surpass demand.
Both organisations have asked the government to commit to speeding-up progress on the resettlement of Afghan refugees.
Former defence minister and Conservative MP Johnny Mercer said, “In my first tour in Afghanistan in 2006, I commanded a company of 32 Afghans. I persuaded them to fight. We went there as part of a UK mission, serving British interests and the British government.
“I cannot stress this enough: we owe a duty of care to provide clear routes for refugees and a warm welcome when Afghans get here. More urgency is needed from the British Government, and I welcome this important initiative. I have no doubt that the British public will back this. We have not only seen a swelling of support for helping the people of Ukraine but in my own constituency, I have seen a deep desire to help Afghans, not least military interpreters still stranded in Afghanistan.”
The letter to Gove has gathered over 50 signatures, including from Baroness Nicky Morgan, Caroline Noakes MP, Gwen Hines, CEO of Save the Children and Rafi Hottak, Former British Forces Interpreter, as well as a number of organisations working to help Afghan refugees.