Afghan asylum seekers in UK face 'knock-back after knock-back' for homes

Charities urge government to do more to help

Afghan refugees are struggling to find accommodation in Britain. PA
Powered by automated translation

Afghan asylum seekers who arrived in the UK two years ago are struggling to find somewhere to live.

Rejections from private landlords have left many frustrated and uncertain about their future.

Matt Simmons, founder of housing aid group Bridge to Unity and a former RAF veteran, said many Afghans receive “knock-back after knock-back” in their search for somewhere to live.

Bridge to Unity was established after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Mr Simmons, 42, said: “Even arranging a viewing is a major hurdle,” revealing he sometimes makes up to 30 calls daily to inquire about accommodation, only to arrange one or two viewings.

Figures showed approximately 8,000 Afghans are still in hotels almost two years since arriving in the UK.

Updated figures are expected to be released this month.

The UK government had planned for the hotels to serve as so-called bridging accommodation, with the intention of evicting asylum seekers by the end of this month.

Last week, the Local Government Association said in some parts of England, up to 20 per cent of Afghans, having been evicted from hotels, had approached local councils with claims of homelessness.

Mr Simmons, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, expressed concern for the Afghan community over the deadline.

“There’s a significant level of worry. They often wonder, 'Why are landlords being so unyielding?' It's challenging to provide them with comforting answers,” he said.

“We hadn’t really anticipated how tough it would be.”

He, along with a coalition of charities, had approached estate agents and landlords in search of homes.

However, a general shortage in supply and a reluctance from landlords and agents have compounded the problem, he said.

Mr Simmons highlighted a shift in demeanour from landlords or agents when they learnt he was inquiring on behalf of an Afghan staying in a hotel.

He said Afghans who helped the British during the conflict in Afghanistan were deserving of support in the UK.

The government has extended financial assistance, but Mr Simmons suggests there was a need for more aid.

He highlighted a disparity in the speed of housing Afghans based on their English proficiency.

Those fluent in the language could integrate faster into the housing and job markets, while those with limited English skills struggled.

Ben Beadle, chief of the National Residential Landlords Association, denounced any forms of racial discrimination: “Refugees, like all renters, are battling a supply crisis in the rental market.”

The NRLA blamed “tax policies aimed at limiting the number of homes available for rent” and urged the government to re-evaluate these strategies. It said frozen housing benefit rates as another hurdle for Afghan people.

The government said it was committed to helping the refugees through the Find Your Own Accommodation scheme, which has been supplemented with £285 million.

Updated: August 12, 2023, 4:17 AM