THOUSANDS of Afghan refugees in the UK will remain in hotels as an emergency measure through Christmas and beyond, as so little suitable accommodation is available, charities have warned.
Afghan Welcome, which was set up to support new arrivals from Afghanistan, said that only a few hundred people had been moved out of hotels and resettled in homes so far.
Thirteen thousand refugees arrived in the UK after the chaotic international exit from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August (News, 27 August).
Many of the families in hotels have up to eight members, and there is a shortage of homes large enough for them, said Dr Krish Kandiah, the director of Afghan Welcome, which is a collection of charities and civil society organisations working with the Home Office to support refugees.
He said that the Home Office was equally concerned about the length of time that refugees were spending in temporary accommodation.
“The Afghans I meet are incredibly grateful to be here, but being in a hotel for months, spread over multiple rooms for a family, is not a place for people to begin to rebuild or recover from the trauma they have experienced.
“Very few Afghan children are in school. Some are getting some education in the hotels, a basic package, but it varies between local authorities.”
Dr Kandiah said that there were also concerns about the isolation of women in hotels, most of whom are unable to speak any English, as well as the ability to safely look after children, who frequently had to stay in separate hotel rooms from their parents.
Churches taking part in the Afghan Welcome initiative have been offering activities for refugees as well as practical support, including knit-and-natter groups and cricket and football matches. Nearly 1000 children have received donations through a scheme to provide bedding, bottles, nappies, and other essentials for families.
One church in north-west Scotland has stepped forward to support a family relocated from a hotel in London to a remote area.
Dr Kandiah said: “We are working with a family who have been relocated from north-west London to north-west Scotland as a house came up. We phoned a church close by — it was picked from how friendly its website looked — and it turned out that they had held a prayer meeting the night before to see how they could support Afghan refugees, but they had thought they were too remote to be able to offer much. There was a lot of rejoicing that day.”
The charity is now appealing for donations to buy warm clothing for 7500 refugee children, some of whom fled Afghanistan in August in only shorts, vests, and flip-flops. Donations are managed by the partner charity Baby Basics UK.
Afghan Welcome is working in 25 of the 80 hotels used to house Afghan refugees.
Dr Kandiah continued: “We worry that, while people are waiting in hotels, the Government won’t be willing to take any more refugees. Some churches are even looking at buying their own homes to allow them to take in refugee families, to try and get things moving.”