Mayor says London stands ready to help more Afghan refugees
- City Hall brings together charities, faith and voluntary groups to mark the opening of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) which will see more Afghan refugees coming to the capital
- Deputy Mayor sets out continued support for Afghan refugees, with more than 3,000 people already accommodated in London as part of the emergency response
London’s Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice, Dr Debbie Weekes Bernard, will bring together leading charity, faith and voluntary organisations to ensure a warm welcome and continued support is in place for Afghan refugees arriving in the capital.
City Hall will host a roundtable to recognise the work of frontline organisations in responding to the emergency and to mark the recent opening of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which could see significant additional numbers of refugees arriving from Afghanistan and settling in the UK.
The scheme will resettle women, children and others deemed most at risk, including ethnic and religious minorities, and those identifying as LGBTQ+. It will prioritise those who have assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for UK values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech and the rule of law.
This event will mark City Hall’s transition from emergency response into ongoing, longer term support, and will provide a forum to assess the needs of London’s Afghan communities, including those seeking asylum and without secure immigration status.
To date, more than 3,000 evacuees have been temporarily accommodated in bridging hotels in London, and London local authorities have already pledged to resettle more than 200 families in long-term accommodation.
The Mayor has already taken a number of steps to help support Afghan refugees rebuild their lives as they resettle in the capital. This includes:
- Through the Mayor’s Right to Buy-back fund, which provides boroughs with the funds to purchase homes from the open market to provide suitable accommodation quickly. The borough of Islington has brought 80 homes back into council ownership, with 20 family-sized homes earmarked for Afghan families.
- The London Refugee Response Fund has raised more than £50,000 and will be used to ease the immediate short-term pressures on Afghan-led refugee community organisations.
- City Hall has also published guidance for Adult Education providers to support Afghan refugees and their immediate family members to access skills and employment training, including English language (ESOL) provision, as soon as they are able.
The Mayor is also taking action to champion the Community Sponsorship Scheme, which provides a way for Londoners to be directly involved in refugee resettlement. Londoners have demonstrated their willingness to provide support for those seeking sanctuary in their response to the Afghan crisis, and through Community Sponsorship, Londoners can be directly involved in helping refugees settle in the UK and rebuild their lives. To date, 32 groups in London have welcomed 34 families, a total of 163 refugees.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “We are proud to continue the tradition in London of providing asylum to those in need. The response from Londoners so far has been incredible and I want to thank our charities, voluntary organisations and councils, who are doing all they can to help Afghan refugees settle into our city.
“There is still much more that we can do as a city, and I encourage Londoners to look at the Community Sponsorship Scheme, which provides a way for people to help provide a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”
Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice, Dr Debbie Weekes Bernard, said: “We know that many people went through traumatic experiences fleeing Afghanistan; they have demonstrated incredible resilience and fortitude and it is now our responsibility to welcome them, and demonstrate that London truly stands as a beacon of openness, diversity, and equality.
“I would like to offer thanks and gratitude to the civil society organisations and local authorities who have been working tirelessly to respond to the emergency. I will continue to stand up for the rights of new arrivals seeking sanctuary in our city, including those seeking asylum, and will champion safe routes to enable people to rebuild their lives in London.”
Executive Director for Citizens UK, Matthew Bolton, said: “Last summer, watching families flee Afghanistan was a painful reminder of the challenges millions of refugees are facing in finding safety, but we’re not helpless to support the people most at risk. Through being part of a local community sponsorship group, I’ve seen first-hand how much hope and energy a community can find through the process of welcoming families, not just for those they welcome, but for the volunteers too. We’re so pleased that the power and success of community sponsorship can now be extended to support families from Afghanistan and urge anyone interested in starting or joining a group to get in touch through our Sponsor Refugees website.”
Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi, Founder and Director of the Afghanistan & Central Asian Association, said: “The Afghanistan & Central Asian Association has been working tirelessly to support Afghans in the UK pleading for assistance with bringing families targeted by Taliban over to the UK. We are a grassroots charity with more than two decades of experience running services for our target community. We look forward to working closely with City Hall, national Government and Local Authorities to support the integration and resettlement of Afghan refugees to ensure they receive the right level of support on a grassroots and culturally tailored way.”
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