Thousands of Afghan refugees to be evicted from Home Office hotels with no offer of housing

Thousands of Afghan refugees are living in hotels after fleeing the Taliban in August 2021

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 26 April 2023 18:33 BST
The Independent’s Geordie Greig discusses Afghan refugee campaign with Piers Morgan

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Thousands of Afghan refugees brought to the UK during the Kabul evacuation will be evicted from their Home Office hotels with no offer of housing, the government has revealed.

A Home Office letter, seen by The Independent, has been sent to Afghans living in government hotels telling them that they need to start searching for private rented accommodation as existing support will end from 2 May.

Around 8,000 Afghans are living in hotels in the UK after fleeing the Taliban in August 2021. The government announced plans to evict them in March, saying the refugees would be given a few months’ notice. But initial reports said all refugees would be offered a property to live in.

Now, the Home Office has said that only “some Afghan families will receive one option of housing from the government”. A government factsheet on the changes says: “Most families will not receive an offer of accommodation from the Home Office”.

The letter, sent to Afghans in hotels, continues: “From 2 May 2023, the existing matching process will cease to exist ... It is likely that most people will not receive an allocation through the new process, and we encourage you to find your own accommodation wherever possible”.

The new plan applies to Afghans who have arrived in the UK under two resettlement schemes: the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), and the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap).

In the letter, the Home Office said it would offer support for refugees to find their own private rentals.

It reads: “We will provide as much support as we can to help you make your own accommodation arrangements. This includes support through the existing Find Your Own Accommodation (FYOA) scheme in the private rental sector.”

Unlike other asylum seekers, Afghans on these two resettlement schemes have the right to work.

However, Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said it was “entirely unreasonable to expect Afghan refugees to suddenly move out of hotels without offering suitable alternatives when the reality is that finding affordable housing on the market is a real challenge”.

He continued: “We are deeply concerned about the approach taken by the Home Office, which is likely to lead to Afghans being left homeless and destitute on our streets.

“This is not how those who fled the Taliban and were promised a warm welcome in the UK should be treated.”

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said the government’s plans were “shameful”. He added: “The Conservatives are failing Afghans who put their lives at risk to support our armed forces. By kicking out these Afghan families with no home to move into, ministers are making them homeless and breaking the promise Britain made to provide a new life here in the UK.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “Although it is right that Afghan families have access to permanent homes, the government must guarantee today that these refugees who have fled danger will not be made homeless.”

Harrow councillor Peymana Assad also said the move was “shameful”. “These families stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain in the fight against terrorism, and now they are being humiliated and forced into homelessness in the UK,” she said.

It comes after The Independent revealed the plight of an Afghan fighter pilot who arrived in the UK on a small boat and has now been threatened with removal to Rwanda.

The pilot’s case has been supported by a coalition of senior military chiefs, politicians and charities, who have called on the government to grant the veteran asylum and reunite him with his family.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Hotels are not, and were never designed to be, suitable long-term accommodation for Afghans resettled in the UK. That is why we have announced a plan, backed by £285m of new funding, to speed up the resettlement of Afghans into long-term homes.

“Where available, the government will continue to make offers of suitable housing, which we strongly encourage Afghan families to accept. Where an offer cannot be made or is rejected, increased government support is available to help Afghans find their own homes and begin rebuilding their lives here.”

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