Families coming to live in the UK from Hong Kong using a new visa route will benefit from a support package worth £43 million, the government has announced.
Welcome hubs will help arrivals from Hong Kong to access housing, education and employment to build a life in the UK, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) status and their dependents are eligible for the new immigration route, which was announced in the wake of Beijing’s national security law being imposed on Hong Kong last year.
Councils in England will receive £30.7 million to provide targeted support for new arrivals, covering additional English language assistance and support with housing costs for those who need it, according to MHCLG.
As the areas of support covered by these funds are devolved, £5.8 million will be provided to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver similar activity.
A further £5 million will establish 12 virtual welcome hubs across the UK, with funds for projects like local helplines for practical advice and assistance, while the MHCLG will develop dedicated Hong Kong educational resources for schools.
John Song, from grassroots advocacy organisation Stand with Hong Kong, said: “Providing these supports and education programmes will be vital to help Hongkongers fleeing to the UK to settle and integrate.
“However, as the joint signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the UK also has a responsibility to hold China to account for its gross human rights violations.
“The UK needs to send a clear message to China that destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy has consequences.”
The BN(O) status was created before the UK handed responsibility for Hong Kong back to China in July 1997.
Under the new scheme, those with BN(O) status will be eligible for UK visas then, after five years, they will be able to apply for settlement, followed by British citizenship after a further 12 months.
As of March 19, approximately 27,000 BN(O) status holders and their family members had applied for a visa since January.
Between 123,000 and 153,700 BN(O) status holders and their dependents are expected to use the route to the UK in the first year, rising to between 258,000 and 322,400 over five years.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the support package ensures the “very best start” for BN(O) status holders and their families, supporting them to “find a home, schools for their children, opportunity and prosperity”.
He added: “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 said: “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.”