Councils across the UK will receive £36.5m worth of government funding to help Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) families settle in the UK and to provide additional help for new arrivals where needed, including support with housing costs and learning English.
Backed by over £43m of funding, the Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) Integration Programme will help status holders access housing, work and educational support to ensure they are able to quickly integrate and contribute to their newfound communities.
As the areas of support covered by the funds are both devolved policies, £5.8m will be provided to the devolved administrations through the Barnett formula to support councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver similar activity.
A further £5m will be used to establish 12 virtual welcome hubs across every region in England, as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to coordinate support and give practical advice and assistance in applying for school places, registering with GPs and setting up businesses.
The hubs will work with local authorities and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) groups to provide face-to-face support where needed, while resources will be made available to local authorities, including FAQs and lessons learned from other integration programmes to share best practice from across the UK.
The move delivers on the UK’s historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking up BN(O) status after the handover in 1997 and provides them with a pathway to live in the UK should they choose to do so.
BN(O) status holders have had their rights and freedoms restricted by the National Security Legislation imposed by the Chinese government in July 2020 and the UK Government believes it is right to change the entitlements in the UK which are attached to their status.
Commenting, Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick said: “I want to extend a warm welcome to Hong Kongers arriving in the UK and reaffirm that this government is doing everything in its power to ensure your success and happiness here.
“This programme will ensure British National (Overseas) status holders and their families have the very best start as soon as they arrive and support to help them find a home, schools for their children, opportunity and prosperity.
“We are a champion of freedom and democracy and will live up to our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong, so that these families will come to find the UK a place they can call home.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel added: “We promised to uphold freedom for the people of Hong Kong, which is why I am proud that we have been able to support so many people when they have needed our help.
“It’s an unprecedented and generous scheme and there is no other visa in the world of this nature. We are working hard to successfully resettle people here and recognise there is nothing more difficult than leaving your home to rebuild a life in a new country.
“I know communities up and down our country will welcome new arrivals with open arms and support them to build a new life in the UK.”