Fife councilor says it’s a ‘scandal’ that refugees have been stuck in hotels since August
A Fife housing chief has slammed a national Afghan resettlement scheme as ‘glacially slow’ after it emerged that several families who fled the war-torn country remain stuck in a local hotel.
John Mills, Housing Officer at Fife Council, made the comment as the local authority considers the implications of a Home Office decision to switch to a compulsory – instead of voluntary – scheme for the dispersal of claimants asylum in all parts of the UK, following a huge influx into the South East of England.
But while Fife’s participation in the voluntary scheme means the change is likely to have less of an effect on the council than others, Mr Mills confirmed that a number of Afghan nationals have remained in a so-called hotel ‘relais’ since the end of August – with little sign of them being moved to alternative accommodation.
The exact number of people in this situation has not been made public, but Fife initially hosted 86 refugees when the first groups started arriving in Scotland.
Liberal Democrat group leader Councilor Tim Brett has called the situation a “scandal”, and Fife co-leaders David Ross and David Alexander are due to write to Home Secretary Priti Patel urgently.
“We have a holdback provision and I don’t want to be overly critical here, but I think in terms of the speed at which things happen I could describe it as extremely slow,” Mr Mills told advisers on policy and co-ordinating committee.
“It’s not moving at the pace that Fife would really like it to.
“Although we have made accommodation available to the Home Office to allocate properties, this has still not resulted in an allocation to these families.
“Families are moving to other parts of the UK and other parts of Scotland, but it’s at a very slow pace.
“So that’s part of our difficulty – trying to manage and support those families in the hotel.
“We need to speed things up.”
The resettlement program is under the auspices of the Home Office, but the Fife Council provides overall support.
Mr Mills added that the council remains in talks with the Ministry of Defense (MOD) over the latter’s offer to provide 10 ex-military properties to Leuchars on a five-year lease to Fife Council to temporarily house Afghan families. , while the local authority is also keen to buy seven other properties on the former airbase.
Shocked by the delays, Mr Brett said: ‘It can’t be good for families to just sit in a hotel with no other facilities they would otherwise have.
“I’m starting to think it’s a bit of an outrage because they’ve been there for months.”
To which Mr Mills replied: ‘Approaches have been made through COSLA to the Home Office to try to expedite this process but I am afraid I cannot report any progress.
“I think Fife Council would like to make sure the Home Office and the MOD are aware of our concerns about the slow pace of treatment, if you want to call it that, and the move to more suitable accommodation for our adults and our children, which is absolutely mandatory.
“I don’t think you or I would like to stay in a hotel for a few months.”
SNP councilor John Beare said he hoped the council could get some answers but described the process as “screaming into the wind”.
“The resettlement program for Afghan citizens was announced on August 18 and we had no details – and I mean no details – until January 6,” he said.
“And even those are pretty dreadful themselves.”
Due to the crisis with the seizure of power by the Taliban, thousands of people were desperate to leave Afghanistan and seek refuge in other countries.
The British government announced that it would accept 20,000 refugees over a four-year period, including 5,000 in the first year.
A UK government spokesperson said: ‘The largest and fastest UK emergency evacuation in recent history has brought more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan to safety in the UK. United.
“There is now a huge effort underway to get families into permanent homes so they can settle down and rebuild their lives, and to ensure that those who are still temporarily housed in hotels have access to health care. , education, all the essentials they need, and job opportunities or universal credit.”