Afghan refugees who arrived in the United Kingdom after fleeing the takeover by the Taliban are now asking to be sent back due to lack of free housing and expected benefits to which they feel entitled.
The Guardian reports that the development casts doubt over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Operation Warm Welcome, the British government’s resettlement program for Afghans. The program was launched on Aug. 29 to help Afghan refugees arriving in the UK by providing them with the means to “rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education and integrate into their local communities.”
The mission has not gone as planned due to a widespread lack of housing, which prompted the government to commandeer hotel suites as temporary accommodation for the more than 7,000 Afghans who were given refuge by British forces.
The Guardian reported:
Already some refugees have had enough. One doctor, who has been working with the newly arrived Afghans for weeks but who requested anonymity, said: “I’ve had a few patients telling me they want to go home. One guy, who was 67, kept saying: ‘I can’t take this any more. I have to get out of this [hotel] room.’?” The GP, an Afghan who fled the country in 2000 when the Taliban were previously in power, added: “Another said: ‘I just want my freedom from the hotel.’ I had to put him on medication, and his wife, because they were so upset.”
Further issues erupted with the effort due to concerns over the lack of immediate access to local doctors and amenities.
The paper continued:
In Sheffield, where a five-year-old Afghan refugee fell to his death from a hotel window in August soon after arriving in the UK, the local council has concerns over the suitability of hotels for holding Afghan refugees. A spokesperson said it had shared its misgivings with the Home Office, but would not elaborate on what response it received.
Meanwhile, the Local Government Association, which represents 328 of the 333 councils in England, called on the Home Office to reduce confusion in data that it is sending to different locations over the actual numbers of Afghans and their needs. “The government needs to engage more fully with local authorities and share regular data about numbers, needs and strengths of Afghan refugees and others recently resettled,” said an LGA spokesperson.
Jill O’Leary, lead doctor at the Helen Bamber Foundation, which is working with 650 clients, said the situation was “muddled and confused”, with certain contractors at hotels unaware they were obligated to help Afghans register with a GP and explain their entitlements. “When we consider the needs of people, there seems to be a blind spot with the Home Office when it comes to vulnerability,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Home Office told the press that “it is going to take time to find permanent homes for everyone but we are working urgently with our partners to do so,” adding that “our aim is to support everyone who is resettled here to build a successful life in the UK, and that is why we work around the clock to provide wrap-around support to families. This includes working closely with local authorities across the UK to ensure everyone temporarily accommodated in hotels has access to essential provisions, healthcare, education and universal credit.”