Afghan refugees in UK hotels 'stuck in limbo'

Warning there is also a danger that Afghans could be radicalised if they feel let down

UK authorities are struggling to deal with thousands of Afghan refugees currently staying in hotels who are unable to start new lives, with no idea when they will be given permanent homes.

The refugees include interpreters who helped the British military in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban seized control in Kabul, 15,000 Afghans were brought to Britain and as part of Operation Warm Welcome they were supposed to be integrated into their new communities.

One council leader accused the government of dumping even more people into the area's hotels without warning before they had been able to deal with earlier arrivals.

Newcastle city council leader Nick Forbes said he feared refugees would be “stuck in limbo” as the Home Office puts more new arrivals into quarantine hotels without communication or support.

“We have been working hard to settle families but additionally we have the Home Office dumping large numbers of people in our city without any engagement or support.

“We fear they will be stuck in limbo. From the Home Office point of view, if they are in hotels that is job done. From our point of view, it’s nowhere near integration into a local community for mental health needs or getting kids into education.”

There is also a danger that people left in temporary housing could be “radicalised” if they feel promises made to them have been broken, said Col Simon Diggins, a former officer who is working with the refugees.

Among the refugees are at least 70 unaccompanied children waiting for longer-term housing, the Home Office has said.

The UK government has also been urged to provide a new online application scheme for Afghans hoping to join their loved ones in Britain after the process ended with the evacuation of its embassy in Kabul.

Mr Forbes, chairman of the asylum, refugee and migration task force, a national body for local governments, said the dream of the new life for Afghans in Britain cannot begin while they are in hotel accommodation.

“My worry is that once people are in hotels or temporary accommodation, attention will move to the next problem,” he said.

“We really do have to deal with the huge backlog and make sure there is a real plan for every family that is coming here and no one gets left behind or abandoned.

“The longer kids are out of school the further behind they are going to fall and people will lose out on job opportunities.

“Many of the people coming from Afghanistan have huge mental health challenges that are going to need long-term support. None of that can be achieved if they are stuck in temporary housing.”

Hotels the start of a new life

Col Diggins said it was vital that the refugees be allowed to start their new lives.

“We need to get them to a place where they can start to settle, where they can start to not just survive, but thrive,” Col Diggins told Sky News.

“Let them live their best lives in this country. Let's show the best of this country to them. We're not seeing that at the moment.”

The original plan for incoming refugees was for everyone to spend 10 days in a Covid-secure quarantine hotel before being moved on to temporary housing and then into permanent homes.

Afghan families tend to have more children then UK families, so they need bigger houses, Mr Forbes said, but councils who want to help are tied up by a system of government caps on housing costs.

“Councils are going out of their way, doing what they can to help … but we need communication with government, clarity about legal status and need to make sure they are not just passing people around the system, but they have a permanent home, can put down roots and rebuild their lives,” he said.

The Home Office said more than 100 councils are helping to house Afghan refugees.

“A significant cross-government effort is under way to ensure the thousands of Afghans who were evacuated to the UK receive the support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education, and integrate into their local communities,” a Home Office representative said.

“We have already committed £200 million to meet the cost of the first year of the Afghanistan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme, which aims to welcome up to 20,000 Afghans.”

Updated: October 4th 2021, 11:08 AM