• Sunday, June 23, 2024


On Ukraine war 1st anniversary, Sadiq Khan announces funding for up to 600 new homes for Ukrainian, Afghan refugees

The London mayor has been allocated £126 million from the government’s £500-million Local Authority Housing Fund to enable boroughs and housing associations to deliver on the affordable shelters.

London mayor Sadiq Khan (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

London mayor Sadiq Khan on Friday (24) announced funding for up to 600 new homes in London for people from Ukraine and Afghanistan who have fled conflicts in their respective countries and are either homeless, at risk of being homeless or living in temporary and unsuitable accommodation, a press release from his office said.

The announcement comes as the capital prepared to join others around the world in observing the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Various landmarks in London, including City Hall, Trafalgar Square, the London Eye and others, were set to be lit up on Friday night to mark an international moment of solidarity with Ukrainians in London and abroad.

The National Theatre, Oxo Tower and Southbank Centre will also be lit up in Ukrainian colours, and the capital’s world-famous screens at both Piccadilly Circus and Outernet will send a message of solidarity to all those impacted by the war.

Landmarks around the world, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Torre Monumental in Buenos Aires and others across Warsaw, Madrid, Brussels, Prague, Budapest and other cities will also be lit up on the occasion.

Khan will attend a commemorative service at the Ukrainian Catholic Church on Friday morning where the Ukrainian ambassador, faith leaders and refugees from Ukraine will also be present.

While 16,000 refugees from the east European nation are currently living the capital under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, hundreds from Afghanistan, where the Taliban stormed back to power in August 2021, were accommodated in Home Office bridging accommodation sites in the city.

However, many of the bridging accommodation sites are due to close in the coming months. In several cases, the initial six-month accommodation commitment by hosts through the Homes for Ukraine scheme will also be ending soon or have already ended.

This is set to put more pressure on the council accommodation programmes that are already stretched.

The mayor has been allocated £126 million from the government’s £500-million Local Authority Housing Fund to enable boroughs and housing associations to deliver 600 affordable homes for Ukrainians and Afghans fleeing the conflicts.

In London, the programme will be known as the Refugee Housing Programme (RHP), and will run until March 31 next year.

Housing associations and local authorities who have an ambition to develop RHP homes will be able to bid for funding from early spring. The programme will fund new home acquisitions, including refurbishing existing or newly acquired homes; purchasing new-build properties or developing new homes. The individual funding allocations will be approved and administered by City Hall.

The programme will also make funding available for local authorities and housing associations to provide better quality and more sustainable accommodation for households currently in the Home Office bridging accommodation.

Since becoming the mayor, Khan has shown his strong support for migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum. He has helped councils house refugees through his existing Right to Buy-back fund. In March last year, he announced more than £1.1 million in funding to expand access to immigration advice, develop the Migrant Londoners Hub, and improve support for the capital’s migrant workers. He has also invested in a series of measures to support refugees from Ukraine, evacuees from Afghanistan, and new arrivals under the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa.

“On this tragic milestone – the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine — our city stands in solidarity with millions around the world in support of the innocent people of Ukraine. Our landmarks have been lit in Ukrainian colours and our world-famous billboards are posting messages in honour and solidarity with all those impacted by the ongoing war, which tragically continues to cause so much suffering,” Khan said.

“I’m committed to supporting refugees who have come here to rebuild their lives and do everything I can to help them thrive in their local community. That’s why I’ve announced a new programme which will see City Hall deliver up to 600 affordable homes for Ukrainians and Afghans fleeing conflict, giving those who have been through such harrowing upheaval the stability they deserve.

“I’m doing all I can to build a better and fairer London for everyone by helping councils house refugees through my existing Right to Buy-back fund, and I’m helping migrants and refugees navigate the complex immigration system by funding advice services to provide new arrivals with key information about their rights. However, there are still too many refugees living in unsuitable accommodation. We need the government to urgently step up and provide the right funding to local authorities, the voluntary sector and immigration advice services so that every refugee in need has the home and support they need.”

Cllr Georgia Gould, Chair of London Councils, said, “Boroughs are proud to play a pivotal role in welcoming Ukrainian and Afghan refugees to the capital and ensuring they receive the support they need from local services.

“However, London’s severe shortage of affordable housing makes it extremely hard to find suitable accommodation for everyone who requires it. This funding will boost the vital work taking place across the capital to secure much-needed housing. We’ll continue to work with our partners, including in government, to make sure enough resources are available for tackling this on-going challenge.”

Tamsin Baxter, executive director of external affairs at the Refugee Council, “Our country has a long and proud history of providing protection to people fleeing war, persecution and violence. When the war in Ukraine began a year ago, thousands of British people opened their homes, giving Ukrainians a warm welcome in their hour of need. This is who we are – we provide protection and a place to call home to those who have lost everything.

“At a time when we’re seeing the number of refugees facing homelessness in the UK rising, the Refugee Housing Programme provides a very welcome solution for sustainable housing for people who have lost everything. A place to call home, in a welcoming community, are key elements of helping refugees rebuild their lives in safety here in the capital.”

Sra Doggett, head of Corporate Affairs at Landsec said, “Piccadilly Lights is a key piece of the London landscape, and as such, plays an important role sitting at the heart of London’s multicultural community. It was therefore an easy decision for us to support this message of solidarity and hope for the people of Ukraine, particularly those who have made their homes in the capital. We’re grateful to have been given the opportunity to be involved in this important moment.”

Imran Tauqir, general manager of the lastminute.com London Eye, said: “We are proud to join with landmarks around the world in this international moment of solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

“By lighting the London Eye in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, we send out a clear and strong message of our continued support for the people of Ukraine and all those impacted by the invasion.

“The London Eye will also join in the national moment of silence to allow our teams and guests to pay tribute to the courage of the Ukrainians.

“Our thoughts remain with the Ukrainian people as we continue to stand with them.”

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