At least 4,300 Afghans entitled to resettlement in the UK are still waiting to arrive despite the Government admitting they face “ongoing risks”, i can reveal.
There may be as many as 8,000 Afghans waiting to come to the UK, according to a £1.6bn Home Office contract, which warns that those needing to be resettled will add “significantly more pressure” to the Government’s existing migrant accommodation portfolio this autumn.
The arrival of those who qualify under the Government’s two resettlement schemes for Afghans – which includes those who worked with the British Armed Forces – combined with the arrival of more small boats, will lead to “unprecedented” strain on the immigration system, the contract states.
It comes a month after around 8,000 Afghan evacuees airlifted out of Kabul in 2021 or resettled afterwards, were told they must move out of Government hotels and into permanent homes across the UK as the Government tries to slash a £6m daily bill for asylum seeker accommodation.
The Home Office contract with Corporate Travel Management (CTM) outlines a deal that will see CTM provide bridging accommodation and transport for asylum seekers, unaccompanied asylum seeking children and resettled Afghans.
CTM was previously in charge of running two cruise ships that held Ukrainian refugees and was recently hired to manage a barge that will house up to 500 migrants in Dorset. The company has previously faced criticism over its running of the Government’s Covid hotel quarantine and PCR testing programme.
The two-year bridging accommodation deal with the Home Office is by far the largest contract it has signed and places CTM at the heart of the Government’s response to the migrant crisis. Shares in CTM leapt by 12 per cent after it was revealed it had been awarded the deal, which has the ability for a one-year extension.
In its contract with CTM, the Home Office states: “The Buyer’s forecasts indicates that our accommodation portfolio is going to come under significantly more pressure over this autumn as asylum Seekers will continue to illegally enter the country in small boats.
“HMG estimates that a further c.8000 Afghans who qualify under our schemes (ARAP) are still to be resettled in the UK. MOD and FCDO are keen that this happens quickly given the ongoing risks to them in Afghanistan.”
Around 4,300 Afghans eligible to come to the UK under the Ministry of Defence’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), including those who worked with British forces, are yet to arrive.
Of those, roughly 2,200 are still in Afghanistan, with the rest in third countries such as Pakistan after fleeing. More than 12,200 have already been brought to the UK under the scheme.
Others are waiting for their application and security clearance to be processed under the second Government scheme – the Foreign Office’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS ).
This includes more than 100 ex-British Council teachers and their family members.
Over the past few months, i has reported on the plight of British Council contractors who have been in hiding in Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, fearing Taliban attack as they wait for their ACRS claims to be processed.
The Foreign Office was unable to provide figures showing the number of eligible ACRS people still waiting to come to the UK, but the scheme was designed to bring 1,500 people to the UK.
i understands that some of these people, and their dependents, are still in Afghanistan, while others remain in third countries.
The Government has faced criticism over the length of time it is taking to resettle vulnerable Afghans who risk torture or death at the hands of the Taliban.
The Home Office contract with CTM confirms that the Government is looking at “all options” for migrant accommodation including holiday parks, hotels and vessels, with venues required to be at least three stars and on-site security supplied.
Safety rules include the requirement that windows are fitted with safety brackets that only allow them to open 100mm or less. In August 2021, a five-year-old Afghan boy fell to his death from a window at a Sheffield hotel.
The contract states that “limited capacities” have seen some unaccompanied asylum-seeking children being kept in bridging hotels, with “additional requirements” necessary in their care, including space for nurses and care workers.
One social worker supplied by the Home Office is recommended for every eight unaccompanied children giving 24/ 7 coverage. Unaccompanied children and resettled Afghans will also receive welcome packs of support phone numbers including the Samaritans, according to the contract.
Earlier this year, the Government confirmed that around 200 unaccompanied child asylum seekers were missing from UK hotels.
CTM would also be required to transport asylum seekers to and from sites including Dover and Manston asylum centre, a Home Office site in Kent where people arriving in the UK in small boats were taken for initial checks.
In a sign of how far across the country accommodation is being sourced, pickup and destination points may be anywhere in the UK, and “due to the contingency nature of the required response, it is not possible to be specific or restrictive in locations”, the contract states.
Rules regarding transport include tracking devices being fitted to all vehicles to provide accurate GPS locations.
When carrying vulnerable passengers, drivers must “call the allocated contact person on arrival and notify them of their arrival to pick-up the passenger/s”.
Last November saw a group of around 30 migrants being abandoned at London’s Victoria Station after being dropped off by a coach from Manston.
As part of the Government’s cost-saving drive to use alternatives to hotels, CTM will operate the Bibby Stockholm, which will be moored in Portland Port in Dorset from next month. The first cohort of around 50 asylum seekers are due to board the three-storey vessel from mid to late June with those onboard to be kept two to a room in more than 220 berths.
Last year, the Scottish government chartered two cruise ships for Ukrainian refugees through CTM, which was awarded a contract with a value of up to £100m until 12 December, 2024. More than 1,000 people living on the MS Victoria docked at Leith since last summer are set to be moved into new accommodation over the next two months.
During the pandemic, CTM was criticised by passengers for its role in the NHS Test and Trace system with the company in charge of arranging bookings for the Government’s controversial Covid hotel quarantine system, which charged £1,750 per adult to house arrivals in Britain from red list countries.
CTM sold day 2 and day 8 PCR testing kits for £210 to travellers returning to the UK who needed to quarantine at home.
It was previously selected to co-ordinate nearly 200 repatriation flights for 38,000 UK citizens stranded abroad in the early stages of the pandemic.
CTM’s founder, Jamie Pherous, said that the company was appointed to manage the repatriation flights after a person “close to” Mr Johnson called him, saying: “We’ve got this problem, can you solve it for us?”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the safety and welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and expect high standards from all of our providers.
ARAP resettlements plunge by 60% as critics brand Afghan schemes ‘utterly broken’
Record-high migration figures announced on Thursday revealed that just 46 Afghans have been resettled since the start of 2022 under Pathway 2 and 3 of the ACRS scheme.
ARAP resettled 3,167 people to the end of March, 2023, a fall of more than 60 per cent from year ending March 2022 8,231 were relocated.
The data also showed that the largest nationality group crossing the Channel in the six months up to March 2023 is Afghans amid calls from campaigners for more safe routes to be opened
Emily Graham Head of Campaigns at Safe Passage International: “It is outrageous that the Government is continuing to fail people fleeing the Taliban. The Afghan schemes are utterly broken. Without working safe routes, it is no surprise to us that more and more Afghans are having to make desperate crossings in the Channel in order to reach safety and family here.
“This Government wants to ban Afghan refugees who arrive this way from ever getting protection here, locking them up and then abandoning them to random countries .
“It is cruel and unfair that refugees fleeing persecution will be punished for seeking safety in the only way they can. The Refugee Ban Bill must be abandoned, and this Government should focus instead on fixing the Afghan schemes and opening new safe routes for refugees.”
“The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow and requires us to look at a range of accommodation options which offer better value for money for taxpayers than hotels. It is right that we explore all available options.”
The spokesperson added: “We are working closely with local health colleagues to ensure appropriate health and safety arrangements are in place for asylum seekers to be accommodated on Bibby Stockholm.
“Corporate Travel Management, which will be responsible for managing the services on and off the barge, has a strong track record of providing this kind of accommodation.”
A Corporate Travel Management (CTM) spokesperson said: “CTM’s services are led by an experienced UK-based leadership team with extensive knowledge and experience managing complex logistical solutions for Crown projects. CTM also has an established and dedicated Accommodation team that works closely with the Home Office to deliver appropriate solutions and services in line with contract requirements.”
They added: “CTM is working with the Home Office on providing accommodation for asylum seekers and has recently contracted one vessel for use at Portland Port.
“When contracting accommodation, we ensure we are considering individuals’ security, health, and wellbeing needs. Through the provision of our services, and working in partnership with NHS, local authority and other stakeholders, we strive to provide a positive experience to those who require accommodation in the UK.”2023-05-25T16:58:30Z dg43tfdfdgfd