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Shelter to challenge Interior Ministry plan to uproot Afghan refugees | Refugees

The Home Office plans to uproot Afghan refugees from a London hotel and moving them hundreds of miles from their children’s schools could lead to a legal battle, a lawyer has warned.

About 40 families with 150 children have been told by the government they must move from Kensington to a hotel in Yorkshire despite no guarantee of school places or jobs.

But when Home Office officials attempted to arrange the moves on Tuesday, they were met by a lawyer who told them any attempt to remove them could be challenged.

Jo Underwood, head of strategic litigation at Shelter, said: ‘The Home Office will know that we are considering legal action if we cannot resolve this matter amicably.

The families were brought to the UK in August 2021 after Kabul collapsed because they had worked closely with UK authorities. As part of Operation Warm Welcome, they were promised help to establish a new life, including homes and schools.

Some of the refugees, including a former Afghan general and former British Army interpreters, say they will refuse to leave because their children, already traumatized by war and displacement, will suffer again from being forced to drop out of their schools.

It comes amid growing concerns that Home Secretary Suella Braverman has failed to deliver on promises made by Boris Johnson to support Afghans who have worked and fought alongside the UK in Afghanistan.

The first families were to be moved on Tuesday, but that plan was scrapped on Monday after a threat of protests from residents.

Since the Guardian first reported on the plight of the refugees on Thursday, refugees have staged a protest outside Downing Street. The Interior Ministry managed to find accommodation for at least one family.

It is understood the Home Office has told some residents they will still be moved to Wetherby, despite the threat of protests at the hotel and the threat of legal action. A family is expected to be evacuated on Wednesday.

Some of the refugees say they have been trying to find private accommodation for months but are losing any properties they find because the Interior Ministry does not complete the necessary paperwork in time.

A Chevening scholar has warned he will be forced to give up a PhD, fellowship and teaching roles if he and his young family are moved to Wetherby.

Another group of families evacuated from Afghanistan in 2021 are already challenging the Home Office for mishandling Operation Warm Welcome, the program to create new lives in the UK. In October the families were moved to an airport hotel in a northern town after spending nearly a year in London, the charity said.

In the fall, Interior Ministry staff told Afghan refugees they might have to leave their hotels at some point. This decision was only confirmed in writing last month.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.


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