THE UK minister in charge of resettling Afghan refugees has pleaded with Scottish councils to house more families as it emerged the Home Office may need to use Airbnb properties.

Victoria Atkins said she was also asking businesses with accommodation, such as hotels, to consider giving those who left Afghanistan in recent months a chance of a new life.

Mr Atkins, the minister for Afghan resettlement, said barely half of Scotland’s local authorities had offered to resettle any of the 3000 families who fled to the UK when the Taliban regained power after a 20-year absence.

A previous Syrian resettlement scheme brought over and immediately housed around 450 to 500 people a month, but the sudden collapse of Afghanistan saw 15,000 people evacuated over a few days, and many are still in hotels as ‘bridging accommodation’.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association at the Home Office yesterday, Ms Atkins said: “These are people who have extraordinary potential, and I would love every single corner of the United Kingdom to help support us and realise that potential.

“Because of the wealth of skills and talent that this group of people have, we are very, very much wanting to work with employers who can also offer homes alongside employment. 

“So, if there are employers in Scotland who would like to offer employment and are able to offer accommodation, then please, please let us know because we’d love to hear from you. 

“We’re really keen to work with the devolved administrations, and we are doing, to see how our plans can best be implemented in Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland. 

“Of the 32 local authorities [in Scotland], I think 18 have been kind enough to offer homes, and obviously we'd love to persuade the others to do so as well.

“That's my plea, not just to Scottish local authorities but any local authority across the United Kingdom that hasn't yet been able to make a formal offer, we’d very much like you to.”

A council source said up to 29 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities had offered help.

HeraldScotland:

In August, Airbnb’s charitable arm, Airbnb.org, said it would house up to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide for free or at a discounted rate.

Ms Atkins said Airbnb lets could be a temporary solution for families in the UK.

She said: “This is at a very early stage, but we just want to give you an idea of what we’re thinking about. We’re not content with people staying in bridging accommodation.

“We absolutely are trying to help them develop lives and bright futures for them and their children.”

Her spokesperson added: “Airbnb are interested in offering a temporary solution. It’s really early stages, but the family can cook for themselves, have a bit of communal space for themselves, get into the jobs market, and then as and when a house is available, move them into a settled house.”

Ms Atkins repeatedly refused to say how many permanent homes had been agreed for Afghan refugees and strongly rejected the suggestion her pleas sounded “desperate”.

An Airbnb spokesperson said: “Airbnb.org and our community of Hosts are helping to resettle tens of thousands of Afghan refugees worldwide. We are continuing our positive talks with the Home Office about resettlement efforts in the UK.”

The Scottish council umbrella group Cosla said authorities had repeatedly shown willingness to support the UK’s humanitarian efforts and werre doing so again with Afghanistan. 

A spokesperson said: “Since July, around 260 people from Afghanistan have been welcomed in to local authorities across Scotland and councils have worked at pace to welcome families into communities and to provide the wrap around support that is required for their integration.

“Almost all councils in Scotland have now committed to supporting the two Afghan resettlement schemes [for civilians and military aides], and they are working through a range of necessary and practical issues to ensure a good match between properties and families. 

“In addition, Cosla is continuing to work with the UK Government to seek to expedite current processes so that property offers that councils have already made can be matched with Afghan families as soon as possible.”