Shaun Keenan (Local Democracy Reporter)
Stormont to receive £20,000 per person for every Afghan Refugee brought into Northern Ireland
The Executive will get more than £20,000 for each Afghan refugee they welcome into Northern Ireland under the UK government’s resettlement schemes.
The UK government set out their ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ plans to local authorities in recent weeks, with the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme now providing support.
It’s understood that a funding offer has been sent from the Home Office to the relevant Stormont departments.
In England, Scotland and Wales, local council’s will be offered the funding, but as the responsibility for housing, education and social care rests with the devolved administration, the funding will be provided to the Executive.
Under the proposals, Stormont will receive £20,520 per person, over three years, for resettlement and integration costs.
The two schemes’ are based on the previous Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.
Meanwhile, the Executive and health partners who resettle families will also receive up to £4,500 per child for education and £2,600 to cover healthcare.
However, the Home Secretary Priti Patel asked for more local authorities to step up and offer places for people coming from Afghanistan.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“The UK is a proud democratic country, so it is unimaginable for many of us to live in fear of being ourselves or not having access to even the most basic rights.
“That is why we are providing a safe haven in the UK for people at risk, including women and girls and minority groups, so they can rebuild their lives safely in the UK.
“The funding we’ve announced will help new arrivals to integrate into British society, while giving councils offering support the certainty they need.”
Alongside this, Afghan Resettlement Minister Victoria Atkins confirmed there would also be an extra £20m of “flexible funding” for councils, and the Afghan housing costs fund would also increase from £5m to £17m.
Under the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, the UK government has committed to resettling up to 20,000 Afghans, of which 5,000 will be resettled in the scheme’s first year.
Last week, the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to help vulnerable people fleeing Afghanistan, and approved measures to resettle refugees.
First Minister and Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan said was “moved” by the scenes in Afghanistan.
He added: “Work has been ongoing for some time to identify the size and scale of need, and to see what facilities and resources are required.
“This is an effort that goes beyond the Executive, and involves the UK Government as well as a range of statutory and voluntary organisations in Northern Ireland.
“I have said before that Northern Ireland has not been found wanting when it comes to those seeking refuge or fleeing persecution. In the wake of the Syrian conflict, Northern Ireland took in more than 1,800 people – a higher proportional share than anywhere else in the UK.”
A spokesperson for the Executive said they were committed to welcoming Afghan refugees, but added that the exact number of refugees was “not yet known”, and that they were working with the Home Office on the “practical arrangements”.