With the government announcing this week its intention to resettle up to 20,000 Afghans in the UK over the next five years, one council has hit back by claiming it cannot afford to accommodate new arrivals when it already has its own housing crisis to handle.
The Lib Dem-majority Torbay Council leader Steve Darling told Devon Live: “We’re having real massive challenges to support our own people let alone Afghan refugees.
“I don’t think people realise how much of the perfect storm we’ve got in Torbay. We’re in a crisis situation with our own people.
“Even if we did have accommodation, we’d still be facing challenges compared to other ethnically diverse parts of the UK.”
Darling’s remarks sparked anger among the area’s Conservative MP with Kevin Foster telling the council to “get a grip”, indicating the numbers the borough would need to take would be small compared to more built-up areas.
In a press release published on Thursday, Torbay Council appeared to be searching for an alternative solution, asking for those who own empty properties in the area to consider opening their doors to Afghan asylum seekers.
It read: “It is galling that the crisis in Afghanistan is with us at the same time as we face a housing crisis in Torbay. In order for Torbay to assist we need the help of our local communities to identify suitable properties.”
Political leaders have faced criticism for unconditionally offering support to Afghans fleeing the war-town country when Britain faces a housing crisis of its own, with London mayor Sadiq Khan announcing on Thursday that “London is ready to welcome as many Afghan refugees as possible.”
His comments have been slapped down by former Brexit Party MEP and the recently-appointed deputy leader of the Reclaim Party, Martin Daubney who called Khan’s remarks “virtue-signalling guff”.
“There is a crippling shortage of affordable housing in London. @SadiqKhan has failed time & again to meet house-building targets So his pledge to “welcome as many Afghan refugees as possible” will go down terribly with hard-working Londoners,” Daubney added.