Afghanistan: How many people has the UK resettled?

Afghans outside Kabul airport on 17 August 2021

Two years after the Taliban took Kabul, a think tank has criticised the UK’s treatment of people escaping from Afghanistan.

More in Common said some had been living in hotels for two years, and now faced eviction.

How many Afghans have arrived in the UK?

The government says that around 24,600 people had arrived in the UK from Afghanistan as of the end of March 2023, including British nationals.

Of these, about 21,000 have been resettled under different schemes.

Most came as part of Operation Pitting, the British military operation to evacuate British nationals and Afghans from Kabul which began in August 2021.

  • About 2,000 came before Operation Pitting
  • 15,000 arrived during Operation Pitting
  • 7,000 have arrived since
A UK evacuation flight out of Kabul
Image caption,Operation Pitting saw around 15,000 people evacuated from the Afghan capital Kabul

In written evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee in November 2021, Raphael Marshall – who previously worked on the Foreign Office’s Afghanistan crisis response – estimated that between 75,000 and 150,000 people had applied for evacuation in August 2021, of whom 5% received assistance.

The Home Office said another 1,400 former staff and their families had already been relocated since 2013 under an earlier scheme.

What are the Afghan resettlement schemes and how do they work?

In April 2021 – before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan – the government launched the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme.

Under ARAP, Afghans who worked for the British military and UK government – for example, as interpreters – could apply to settle permanently in the UK, rather than get five years’ residency, which was previously offered.

The government also opened the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) in January 2022, which it said would allow up to 20,000 refugees to settle in the UK.

This scheme focuses on women and children as well as religious and other minorities in danger from the Taliban.

Immediate family members of those eligible under either the ARAP or ACRS schemes are also eligible for resettlement in the UK.

family in Afghanistan walking to plane

How much money is the government spending on the Afghan resettlement schemes?

As part of an initiative called “Operation Warm Welcome”, local councils have been allocated funding packages of £20,520 per person over three years.

The money should help refugees enrol in education, find work and integrate in their new communities.

The government promised an additional £10m in the first year for housing costs, then £5m and £2m in the two following years.

What accommodation have Afghan refugees been offered?

The government announced £35m to help local authorities move around 8,000 Afghans out of hotels and into permanent homes across the UK. It promised a further £250m for the local authority housing fund.

The refugees were given three months to vacate their hotels for relocation.

At the end of March 2023, the Home Office said that just under 1,000 refugees had been moved into permanent accommodation, and another 468 were waiting to move in.

However, 8,799 Afghan refugees were still living in hotels or serviced accommodation, with one man telling the BBC he had spent almost two years in a hotel.

According to the Home Office, 315 households (around 1,200 people) refused accommodation offers for “varied and often justifiable reasons”.

Cabinet Office minister Johnny Mercer – who served in Afghanistan during his time in the military – told the BBC that “things could always have been done differently”, and that some Afghan families had been in hotels “for far too long”.

In February 2022, the Home Office said that accommodating Afghan refugees in hotels cost £1.2m per day.

  • Afghanistan evacuee ‘feels stuck’ in hotel room
  • Afghan refugees in London hotel ‘reject accommodation offers’

How can other Afghans come to the UK?

In theory, they can come through the UK Resettlement Scheme which prioritises refugees from regions in conflict. In 2022, 36 Afghans came through this route.

Some Afghans have also made their way to the UK and then sought asylum.

The number of Afghans arriving in the UK on small boats, which have crossed the English Channel has increased sharply:

  • 2020: 494
  • 2021: 1,437
  • 2022: 8,633

In the first three months of 2023, 1,054 arrived this way.

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