Thousands of Afghans rescued from the Taliban remain stuck in British hotels, after a minister admitted there was no mechanism to move some of them without losing government support.
The Home Office recently revealed that keeping Afghans in hotels is costing the taxpayer £1.2million a day. Hotel rooms are not suitable for long-term accommodation for traumatized people who have fled persecution and are a particularly difficult environment for families with children.
On December 1, Afghan resettlement minister Victoria Atkins told parliament that more than 4,000 Afghans had either been resettled or provided with housing. More than two months later, that figure remains around the 4,000 mark.
When the Home Office, working with local authorities, finds accommodation for Afghans brought to safety, it gives councils £20,520 per person in resettlement money over three years to help with community integration.
However, none of the 12,000 Afghans still languishing in hotels and finding their own accommodation can automatically access this support.
Tim Naor Hilton, the chief executive of Refugee Action, said the stasis ‘falls short of the expectations the British public rightly had’ when they ‘saw Afghans clinging desperately to planes as Kabul fell “.
In a statement to the Guardian, Atkins said: ‘We are exploring all options to ensure that families leaving relay hotels for self-arranged accommodation receive the appropriate support.
She added: “Through an unprecedented cross-government effort and in partnership with local authorities and the private rental sector, we have already matched or are matching approximately 4,000 evacuees to homes.
“We continue to seek all means to obtain permanent housing so that Afghan families can settle down and rebuild their lives. Afghans recognized as having the legal right to reside in the UK have an immediate right to access essential services including education, NHS healthcare, employment opportunities and universal credit.
She promised that all Afghan citizens brought to the UK under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) would have the right to work, access to education and health care and may apply for public funds. .
Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, condemned the delays and lack of flexibility in the Afghan resettlement program. “The government has clearly struggled to partner effectively with local authorities to quickly move Afghans into long-term community housing.
“It is imperative that all families receive the support they need to rebuild their lives and are sure to be well-settled in local communities, regardless of the route they choose to find housing.”
Sara Nathan, co-founder and trustee of the charity Refugees at Home, which recruits hosts with vacant rooms to provide temporary accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees, said her organization had not been in able to assist resettled Afghans.
“When the Afghan evacuation happened, it really touched a sympathetic nerve and 1,600 people asked to be taken in with Refugees at Home,” she said. “It is incredibly frustrating that, months later, we have not been able to place Afghans due to the risk that they will lose the support of the Ministry of Interior and the accommodation provided by the local authorities at more long term.
“So people are stuck for months in unsuitable and expensive relay hotels when they could be staying, cooking for themselves, integrating and getting used to their new life.”