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Insufficient housing for Afghan refugees, Government Warns

refugees

According to Refugees Minister, Lord Harrington the Government has fewer than 100 properties available to house refugees and they expect 500 Afghans to arrive each month. Currently, refugees are being housed in hotels, which are unsuitable for long term habitation, so Lord Harrington has asked Councils to find the required housing units.

Scale of the problem

More than 500 four bedroom houses are required to accommodate larger family according to Lord Harrington. The Government is reaching out to the private sector to source the extra properties they need.

Last month 440 migrants crossed the English Channel in small boats in a single day with 60,000 expected for the whole of 2022. Since March, over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived under the “Ukraine Family Scheme” and “Homes for Ukraine Scheme.” It is unclear how many asylum seekers will receive refugee status, or whether they will be sent to Rwanda under the Government’s plan to deter migration via boat. There are also hopes that the war in Ukraine will end and subsequent rebuilding efforts will allow for the return of Ukrainian refugees.

The Home Office has stated that there is insufficient local housing accommodation in the UK “not just for Afghans and those in need of protection but also British citizens who are also on a waiting list for homes”.

Refugee Problem

Asylum applications to the UK have been increasing in recent years due the war in Syria and more recently the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan. The war in Ukraine will likely lead to a big uptick in refugees settled in the UK.

UK Asylum applications per year

However, the recent spike in asylum applications accounts for a small percentage of net immigration to the UK which stands at between 250,000 and 300,000 people per year. Asylum applications by comparison range from about 30,000 people per year to over 50,000.

This points to the main issue in housing refugees being a shortage of housing, especially social housing, rather than an influx of refugees.

Final Thought

Managing the flow of refugees is one of the hardest tasks of any government. Voters want the Government to be ‘in control’ of immigration but in the case of refugees the Government is prevented from denying them access by international treaty.

Of course, they are trying anyway. The Government is attempting to stop boats crossing the channel, creating “hostile environments” in the UK and of course, attempting to send people to have their applications processed in Rwanda. These policies are inhumane even if people are merely ‘economic’ migrants rather than refugees.

It is easy to sit back and moralise, but the Government is hemmed in by political forces they feel helpless and perhaps are powerless to tame. On the one hand the public’s concern about immigration including “illegal” immigrants, stoked by the press in the 2010’s could return at any minute. On the other hand, housing refugees is no easier than housing anybody else and this is another task that is fraught with political danger.

For generations now governments have been unable to build enough housing to keep up with demand. The cause of this failure is the power of homeowners as a class. Their numbers have been swelled by government policy and they vote more reliably than other UK residents. Put these factors together and you create powerful forces against development that would reduce house prices locally or in aggregate. Spiralling house prices are not such a poor outcome if you already own a house.

The humane and logical solution to refugees and housing would be to allow people to apply for UK asylum from safe places close to the source countries, then build enough houses to rehome them in the UK. These policies would result in more people living safe lives overall and to house prices in the UK becoming more affordable.

Sadly, these policies equally weight the wellbeing of the powerful with the powerless. More realistically, expect for governments to create policies that brutally discourage refugees and encourage the further increase in house prices.

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