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Speaking to councillors at a full meeting of Edinburgh City Council today, leader Adam McVey said that ‘welcome is the first thing they should hear’ as new citizens arrive in the capital.
The UK Government has so far indicated it will resettle 5,000 Afghans in the UK during the first year of the Afghan Resettlement Scheme, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term.
It is understood the city’s housing shortage has made it impossible for the Home Office to source appropriate housing in the city in time, with hotels being used ‘due to the pressure of numbers now being resettled’.
The temporary housing units that are being proposed for use are not council homes, nor are they units that could be used for temporary homeless accommodation – meaning Afghan refugees will not exacerbate the Edinburgh housing crisis.
Council leader McVey has also previously insisted the homes being earmarked for permanent resettlement are ‘being found additionally to the normal housing stock available to us’.
He told council members: “The UK Government has now procured space in the city centre, we think, although numbers are unconfirmed, for around 250 people to come to Edinburgh very, very quickly, very soon for immediate, temporary accommodation.
“We also expect around 50 people in the first instance to be resettled in Edinburgh, and we’ve taken great care to find properties which are suitable and also don’t put any further pressure on the already quite significant housing supply issues.
“We will absolutely do everything we can as a city to make sure that the word ‘welcome’ is the first word in all of our considerations.
“These are people fleeing, in enormously difficult circumstances, these are people we have worked with in some instances, with Scottish and Edinburgh personnel in Afghanistan – they are most welcome in our city and we will welcome them with open arms as they seek to build and rebuild their lives in the capital city.”
The UK Government is footing the bill for the accommodation and support of Afghan refugees, but councillor McVey has indicated Edinburgh City Council will be making representations to the Scottish Government to cover other costs that might arise from the resettlement to avoid over-burdening the city’s council tax-payers.
Councillor McVey added: “Two weeks ago I was in Leith Links for the climate festival, and had a conversation at ‘The Welcoming’, which is a fantastic organisation, and the man I was speaking to was actually a Syrian refugee who had come to Edinburgh, and who was absolutely oozing with love for our capital city.
“I do just want to highlight that while we talk about the here and now, in terms of refugees, it is worth just remembering that what we are gaining is new citizens, new residents who are making exceptional contributions to our capital city.”