Afghan refugees in UK told to look for private accommodation

Afghan refugees in UK told to look for private accommodation

Home Office bringing end to hotel accommodation but rights groups warn of homelessness

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) - Afghan refugees who sought asylum in the UK after the Taliban took over Afghanistan a year ago have been told to look for private accommodation as the government-funded accommodation scheme winds down.

In a letter sent to the Afghan refugees, the Home Office warned that not every council would accept their request for a place on the social housing list and has told them to use estate agent websites in the private sector.

“The use of hotels to house those resettling from Afghanistan is a temporary solution, and we continue to work with over 350 local authorities to move Afghan families from hotels to permanent accommodation as quickly as possible,” a statement from the Home Office said.

“To support the resettlement of Afghan families, local authorities are given £20,520 ($24809) per person over a three-year period. They have the flexibility to use this funding to contribute towards renting accommodation, including deposits, letting fees and furnishing,” it added.

Although the government is still accommodating up to 9,500 Afghan refugees in hotels, with 7,000 rehoused, the Home Office is planning to wind down the use of hotels to house refugees.

Rights groups and charities, however, have voiced concerns over the lack of funding, guidance and assistance offered to the refugees and fear that many families will fall into homelessness as a result.

Afghan families and individuals, many of whom have only been in the UK for a year, will struggle to find accommodation. Due to language barriers which will prevent them from negotiating their rental agreements and the lack of necessary documentation, many fear that these families will fall through the system.

“Afghan families couldn’t have imagined that one year after arriving they’d still be warehoused in unsuitable accommodation, without space, privacy and stability. There is also a serious risk of homelessness for these families if suitable accommodation is not offered under the current Home Office plans,” said Eva Tabbasam, the director of Gender Action for Peace and Security.

“The government has had a year to sort things out – instead, it’s getting worse. If suitable accommodation was readily available for the 9,500 people still in hotels, families would already have been moved into it. We don’t yet know what kind of move on accommodation families will be offered,” she added.

The government’s plans to rehouse Afghan refugees include sending them to different parts of the country. However, as the majority are based in London and with children enrolled into school and family members at work, the scheme may prove difficult.

Furthermore, councils have voiced concern over the lack of housing options for Afghan families with Claire Holland, London Councils’ executive member for communities, saying “boroughs are very concerned by the lack of alternative housing options for these families – a particular challenge in the capital due to the chronic shortage of affordable housing here.”

UK council housing lists are notoriously long with many having to wait up to a year to find a house fit for a large family. Additionally, although Afghan families have the right to rent, many landlords are reluctant to sign agreements with them due to a lack of necessary and sufficient documentation.

The plan to rehouse Afghan refugees in private accommodation comes on the one-year anniversary of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, following which thousands of Afghans have sought asylum in the UK. ​​​​​​​

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