LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has pledged £ 43 million to help people arriving from Hong Kong find jobs, housing and schools under an initiative that allows millions to resettle after China’s introduction of new security laws in the former British colony.
An escalating series with Beijing on reforms in Hong Kong has seen Britain open its doors to potentially more than 5 million people and offer them the chance to live and work in the country and eventually apply for citizenship.
The bulk of the money announced Thursday will be spent by local authorities on programs to help with English-language support and housing costs for newcomers. The government will also launch 1
These ‘welcome hubs’ will also provide advice on how to set up businesses in the UK.
“This program will ensure that British national (overseas) state owners 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,” said the Minister for Social Affairs. Robert Jenrick.
Britain says Chinese security laws and democracy reforms in Hong Kong have violated the terms of the agreement, which saw the semi-autonomous city return to China in 1997. Ministers say the visa program is a way to honor its side of this agreement.
China has reacted angrily to the offer, saying the West’s views on its actions towards Hong Kong are blurred by misinformation and an imperial hangover.
Since its launch in January, around 27,000 people had applied for the new visa per year. March 19. Although the overall estimate of demand is uncertain, the government counts between 258,000 and 322,000 applicants over five years.
The program is open to 2.9 million people classified as British National (Overseas) – a special status specifically related to Hong Kong – and a further 2.3 million eligible relatives.
($ 1 = £ 0.7235)
Reporting by William James, editing by William Maclean