Priti Patel is under mounting pressure to address the “appalling” delays in resettling Afghans in Britain, amid claims that 4,000 children are still being temporarily housed in hotels.
Five months after Kabul fell to the Taliban, the Home Secretary is facing a backlash from MPs over the lack of progress in finding permanent homes for more than two thirds of the refugees evacuated during the takeover.
Of the 15,000 Afghans who were initially airlifted, 12,000 were still in temporary “bridging” accommodation by the beginning of December, with sources telling The Telegraph that at least 4,000 were children.
The Home Office refused to confirm or deny the figures, although it disputed claims from one source that as many as one in four children had not begun attending school. Instead, it provided figures from the Department for Education that said that 95 per cent of children had been enrolled.
It means that one in 20 is still waiting to be placed, although the Government said it was confident the remaining children would be placed in the coming weeks.
Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Hotels are not suitable accommodation for any child to be in long term. They have nowhere to play and are having to share limited space.
“We know that although most have been allocated a school, there are still many without any education. This isn’t the warm welcome they were promised back in August.”
The disclosure comes several days after it was claimed that Ms Patel had rejected proposals put forward by Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, to impose mandatory allocations of Afghan refugees on all local authorities, rather than relying on a voluntary system.
In a sign of growing tensions over the issue, Victoria Atkins, the minister for Afghan resettlement, suggested on Sunday that some councils had failed to do enough.
While praising the 300 who had volunteered to date, she said: “More local authorities must come forward and do their bit in the national effort to help those looking to rebuild their lives here. That is why we have a generous funding deal for councils to offer support to Afghan families over three years.”
The Home Office also pointed out that the Government was giving councils £20,520 per person over three years and had extended a sponsorship scheme to encourage local community groups to support resettled Afghans.
However, Johnny Mercer, the former veterans minister who served in Afghanistan, said: “It’s appalling that these people are having to endure such a long period of time in hotels. We need to get these children into schools and their families integrated in our communities across the UK.”
Chris Bryant, the Labour member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, added: “These are kids who will have been traumatised by the events of the last 18 months. You need them to be in settled education and settled housing as soon as possible. Otherwise, you are just building up future problems.”
Separately, the Home Office has also been accused of watering down its original commitment to offer refuge to an additional 20,000 Afghans over the next five years through the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which was launched last week.
The scheme is available to those who were not eligible under the initial Afghan relocations and assistance policy. It has now emerged that some of the Afghans on the original scheme will be transferred over to the new scheme, which critics say is a breach of the Government’s promise last summer.