British Queen celebrates


London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced funding of £126 million for up to 600 new affordable homes in London for refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine who have fled conflicts in their

respective countries and are either homeless, at risk of being homeless, or living in temporary and unsuitable accommodation. The funding will come from the government’s £500-million Local Authority Housing Fund, and will enable boroughs and housing associations to deliver on the affordable shelters.

16,000 refugees from Ukraine are currently living in London under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, while hundreds from Afghanistan were accommodated in Home Office bridging accommodation sites in the city after the Taliban stormed back to power in August 2021. However, many of the bridging accommodation sites are due to close in the coming months, and the initial six-month accommodation commitment through the Homes for Ukraine scheme will also be ending soon or have already ended, putting more pressure on the council accommodation programmes that are already stretched.

The Refugee Housing Programme (RHP) 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.

London will observe the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and various landmarks in London, including City Hall, Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, the National Theatre, Oxo Tower, and Southbank Centre, were set to be lit up on Friday night to mark an international moment of solidarity with Ukrainians in London and abroad. 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. 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. Photo by DAVID HOLT from London, England, Wikimedia commons.