Edinburgh MSP calls for Afghan refugees to be housed in empty Ministry of Defence homes in the city

Empty homes owned by the Ministry of Defence should be used to house refugees fleeing the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, a city MSP has said.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 12:32 pm

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Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald said there were 160 unused MoD homes in the Capital formerly used to accommodate service families, mostly around Redford barracks.

And he said they had been left empty for “numerous” years despite repeated calls to bring them into use.

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Gordon MacDonald says it would be a "missed opportunity" not to use the MoD homes

Mr MacDonald said: “It’s not right that these homes lie empty and it is in the gift of the UK government to put them to good use.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will accept 5,000 refugees from Afghanistan this year and 20,000 over five years.

But opposition parties, including the SNP, have argued those numbers should be increased.

And Edinburgh council leader Adam McVey has written to the UK Government calling for more Afghan refugees to be welcomed.

The Capital is set to provide temporary accommodation for up to 250 refugees and welcome 50 others as permanent residents.

Earlier this year it was revealed that nearly 11,000 MoD homes were empty across the UK, with 900 unused in Scotland.

MacDonald, said:

“For years now, I have been doing everything I can to get the empty MoD homes in my constituency – and right across Scotland – to be used to help people whose lives would benefit immensely from being housed in the properties. Yet again, we see another example where the UK government could make the most of the hundreds of empty properties across our country.

“The situation in Afghanistan is truly horrific. The refugees are fleeing a horrific situation and we need to be doing everything we can to accept our responsibility and help those who arrive in this country.

“In Edinburgh, we are ready to accept and welcome Afghan families – and as we currently have around 160 homes that are still owned by the MoD but no one has lived in them for at least five years, it seems like a missed opportunity to not use this housing to house refugees in safe and warm homes where they can start to rebuild their lives.

“Boris Johnson should commit to maximising these unused sites like the one at Redford Barracks to allow the UK to take in more refugees, who have had their lives turned upside down, and take responsibility for the situation.”

The MoD said it had already offered 100 service homes across the UK for local authorities to lease to house Afghan evacuees and was looking to see if further houses could be made available, but it could not disclose full numbers or locations for security reasons.

It said it had temporarily leased a number of empty houses that would otherwise have been disposed of or were being retained to fulfil a long-term requirement but for which there was no short-term need and was considering whether additional accommodation could be offered which would not disadvantage service families.

A spokesperson said: “We have identified a number of surplus properties that are being leased to local authorities to house Afghan families around the UK.

“We remain committed to supporting those who have supported us, and our commitment to those who are eligible for relocation is not time-limited and will endure.”

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