Social Justice

'No one has been housed for a month': Afghan refugees still stuck in hotel limbo 9 months on

One man left in an isolated hotel with his family told The Big Issue "people are really suffering" and that some guests have been there since August.

placards reading "refugees welcome"

Refugees stuck in hotels are struggling with indeterminate waits for housing. Image: Ilias Bartolini / Flickr

The stalling Afghan resettlement scheme has left thousands of refugees stranded in hotels, with one seeing “nobody housed for the last month and a half”, one man has told The Big Issue.

Despite government pledges to offer Afghans a “warm welcome” after Kabul fell to the Taliban last August, latest figures show more than 10,000 refugees remain in hotels across the UK at a cost of £1.2m per day to the taxpayer. 

Refugee charities have warned hotel accommodation is unsuitable for families and people who have fled traumatic situations. Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council said leaving refugees in hotels for so long is “totally unacceptable”. 

Farid, whose name has been changed for the purposes of this article, has been stuck in a hotel in Yorkshire with his wife and two children since November. Farid formerly worked as an engineer for a British company in Afghanistan and found his life in danger as the Taliban advanced. 

He told The Big Issue the hotel he and his family are in is “in the middle of nowhere”, with guests often unable to access essential services like job and GP appointments.

“There’s only one bus a day to and from the hotel which means you have no choice over when you can go into the nearest town. People are getting depressed because we’re so disconnected from society,” Farid said.

Farid says some families have been stuck in the hotel since August.

“People are really suffering. Because the location is so far out it’s so hard to do anything or visit anyone,” he said.

Farid has watched his two children gradually grow despondent as each day passes without any further news of when the family will be rehoused. 

“At first they were kind of excited because the environment was new,” he continued. “But as the wait is getting longer they’re getting so bored, especially at the weekend when they don’t have school or college.

“There’s no playground, and there’s rules in the hotel about where they can go. Sometimes we just don’t have anything to do,” he said.

Worst of all, Farid said, is the indeterminate wait for permanent housing

In July, the hotel Farid and his family are living in will close, and while some families will be moved into permanent accommodation, others will be moved to another hotel. 

“The Home Office can’t say when we’ll be moved into permanent housing. We just have no idea,” Farid said. 

It’s a position thousands of other refugees across the country are in, with charities concerned the scheme is now stalling. In Farid’s hotel, nobody has been given permanent accommodation “for the last month and a half”, he told The Big Issue.

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In other parts of the country, refugees have reportedly been told they’ll lose Home Office support if they seek accommodation for themselves. 

Sara Nathan, co-founder of charity Refugees at Home, which finds refugees homes with sponsors, said the settlement scheme has “ground to a standstill” due to “bureaucratic barriers and constraints” standing in the way of settling refugees into new homes.

“We know that it’s not because people aren’t willing to help – 1,600 people volunteered to open their doors when the Afghans arrived, yet to date we have not been able to make any placements at all, because of all the bureaucratic barriers and constraints,” Nathan said. 

Councillor James Jamieson, chair of the Local Government Association, said councils are “working hard” to support refugees in their local area, but need support from central government to make placements.

“[The] government needs to continue to fully engage with local authorities and share regular data to enable proper planning of placements, housing, school places and other support across the UK,” Jamieson said.

A number of charities have expressed concern over the lengthy stays some refugees are enduring in hotels – with no end in sight.

Enver Solomon, of the Refugee Council said: “Hotels are unsuitable places to accommodate people who have fled war, conflict and violence and come to the UK in search of safety – especially for long periods. 

“Leaving people who have endured significant trauma and adversity trapped in hotels, living in limbo, in cramped conditions, without the support, stability and security they need, is totally unacceptable.” 

Many Afghans who were not awarded resettlement under the UK scheme last year have made their own way to the country through channel crossings.

New data shows that more than 1,000 Afghans arrived this way in the first three months of 2022, more than the entirety of Afghans who crossed this way in the whole of last year.

Last year, The Big Issue reported Afghans were facing a “lottery” for resettlement in the UK, with information on applications unavailable or slow to emerge.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has made one of the largest commitments to resettlement of any country. Our scheme will provide up to 20,000 Afghan women, children and other at risk groups with a safe and legal route to resettle in the UK. 

“We are working as fast as possible to house everyone and are proud this country has provided homes for more than 6,000 Afghans evacuees in such a short space of time. We urge councils to join over 300 local authorities who have pledged to support Afghan families, and those who can offer more housing places, to do so.”

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