Afghan refugee family move to Torbay after delays

Torbay Weekly

An Afghan refugee family has been allocated to Torbay - ending a period of two months where the council had been paying rent for an empty property.

Thousands of refugees are living in hotels across the country, waiting for the Government to allocate them a permanent place to live.

Following a call from the Government for local councils to help house Afghan refugees, Torbay Council lodged a two-bedroom property with the Home Office in September.

It is renting the accommodation from a private landlord.

It’s thought many UK properties reserved for Afghan refugees have been empty for some time.

In November, Richmond councillor Piers Allen said three homes in his West London borough set aside for refugees had yet to be allocated to families.

In August, the Home Office launched ‘Operation Warm Welcome,’ urging 'every council across the country to contribute' to efforts to help house Afghan refugees brought to the UK after fleeing the Taliban.

The slow speed of the Home Office’s own allocation process attracted criticism from both Torbay and councils around the UK.

Councillor Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council, said: “It was disappointing that it was just an empty property for two months that could have been put to good use supporting those families.”

He previously described the wait as an 'extremely frustrating' waste of taxpayers money made even more galling by the Bay’s housing crisis.

The latest report from Devon Home Choice says more than 1,400 households are in housing need in Torbay.

It would have been even more irritating for Cllr Darling, who received heavy criticism in the summer for refusing to allocate Torbay council homes to refugees.

The council is unable to find homes for many local people, and a day after the decision hit the headlines, it called on private landlords to offer homes for rent through the resettlement scheme.

In response to the delays, last month a Home Office spokesperson said: “The Government has undertaken the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history helping over 15,000 people to safety.

“There is now a huge effort underway to get families into permanent homes so they can settle and rebuild their lives, and to ensure those still temporarily accommodated in hotels have access to healthcare, education, any essential items they need and employment opportunities or universal credit.

“The ongoing role of local authorities is vital to these efforts and we are grateful for their continued offers of support and housing but the accommodation offered must meet the needs of those being resettled.”

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