Ahead of the first anniversary of Operation Pitting’s launch and the evacuation of thousands of Afghans, London Councils has highlighted the capital’s success in helping so many refugees start new lives as Londoners.
The cross-party group points to the local support and resettlement activity organised by boroughs over the past year, such as enrolling Afghan evacuee children in schools, arranging translation services, and co-ordinating health and care provision.
However, London Councils also flags concerns about the severe shortage of long-term housing options for evacuees in the capital, which has resulted in significant numbers remaining in London hotels. With boroughs also supporting Ukrainian and other refugees arriving in the capital, London Councils warns of on-going resource pressures for local services.
Cllr Claire Holland, London Councils’ Executive Member for Communities, said:
“Events thousands of miles away in Afghanistan prompted a swift response from local authorities in the capital, as boroughs played a pivotal role in welcoming Afghan evacuees to the UK.
“One year on, there’s a huge amount of success for London to be proud of. In extremely challenging circumstances, boroughs moved quickly to co-ordinate local support for thousands of Afghans seeking sanctuary here. Alongside our partners in voluntary and community groups, at City Hall, and in the government, we’re pleased to see so many of the evacuees building new lives for themselves as Londoners.
“But this is far from ‘mission complete’. We know too many Afghan evacuees are still living in hotels. It’s an unsustainable situation, especially for the many families with children we’re supporting.
“Boroughs are very concerned by the lack of alternative housing options for these families – a particular challenge in the capital due to the chronic shortage of affordable housing here. London is already dealing with the most severe housing pressures and highest homelessness rates in the country.
“Many Afghan evacuees will continue relying on local services for the foreseeable future. Considering the support boroughs are also providing Ukrainian arrivals and other refugees, there are worries about the on-going impact on local resources. We will keep working closely with the government on these issues and will do everything we can to ensure the resettlement programmes succeed.”
London faces disproportionate pressures relating to support services for refugees and asylum-seekers. Around 30% of asylum-seeking children in the UK live in the capital.
London continues to see new arrivals from Afghanistan under the Afghan resettlements schemes, as well as Hong Kongers via the British National (Overseas) visa route, Ukrainians, and refugees and asylum-seekers from elsewhere around the world. Boroughs have well-established procedures and expertise in supporting asylum-seeking families and helping them integrate into life in the UK with the support of the capital’s many diaspora communities.
However, the shortage of affordable housing in London is especially acute and poses a major challenge to boroughs seeking long-term homes for refugees. London’s homelessness crisis is the most severe in the country. London Councils estimates 150,000 Londoners are homeless and living in temporary accommodation arranged by their local borough, while 300,000 Londoners are on social housing waiting lists.