Afghan refugee families declining Hampshire housing in hopes of living closer to loved ones

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AFGHAN refugee families in Hampshire are turning down offers for permanent accommodation - because they want to live elsewhere in the UK.

A report presented to Hampshire County Council's health and wellbeing board revealed there are 171 Afghans living in three bridging hotels across the county.

These hotels are stop-gaps while long-term accommodation is found by the Home Office.

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But Graham Allen, director of adults' health and care, told councillors that some families are declining housing offers.

Afghans fleeing Kabul in August. Picture: PAAfghans fleeing Kabul in August. Picture: PA
Afghans fleeing Kabul in August. Picture: PA

He said: 'We have seen some families decline properties because they have family in other parts of the country, and are waiting for homes around there to become available.

'This is something we're starting to see right across Hampshire.

'Overall we've offered 29 properties to the Home Office, and 20 families have already resettled - they are spread out across our districts.

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'A further nine families have been matched to homes, and will move there in the coming weeks. The final four properties are still waiting for a match.'

Suzanne Smith, assistant director of childrens services, added: 'There is not a particularly dense concentration of Afghan families anywhere in Hampshire - but neither would we have much of a say in that.'

Some families have already been settled elsewhere in the UK, Mr Allen confirmed.

Multi-agency work is being carried out to integrate Afghan families in English society, with language support and help with sorting drivers licences and job interviews.

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School places are also being offered to children - but concerns have been raised about the length of time families are having to stay in temporary accommodation.

Mr Allen said: 'The Home Office has sent a letter to all evacuees to say they will be contacted about their immigration status by February.

'Some of the issues we're seeing relate to the amount of time families are spending in these bridging hotels, because we're still seeing more families arriving.'

The government has confirmed to the county council that funding will be provided over a three-year period. Exact funding amounts are yet to be determined, but Mr Allen told councillors he had been hopeful for five years of funding - the same as the government had provided for Syrian refugees.

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