Home » Afghan Refugees in Essex Told Hotel Accommodation Will End
Afghanistan Central Asia News UK

Afghan Refugees in Essex Told Hotel Accommodation Will End

More than 400 Afghan refugees have been told their accommodation in Essex hotels will end in August.

The Home Office said they would have help to find homes, but those who did not take up the offer would be asked to vacate, and many feared homelessness.

Colchester Borough Council has asked the government to “immediately extend the hotel stays”.

The Home Office said “hotels were never designed to be long-term accommodation for Afghans resettled in the UK”.

Naqeeb Khilji's hotel room
Image caption,Naqeeb Khilji’s family share two interconnected double rooms – his three daughters share a double bed and he and his wife sleep in another bed with their 18-month-old son

The government said, following the withdrawal of British and US armed forces from the county, more than 24,000 people had arrived in the UK from Afghanistan as of December 2022, including British nationals.

In Chelmsford, Afghans staying in a hotel received letters in May saying they were needed to “quit” the property by 9 August.

The letter said if they had not left by this date they “will be a trespasser and the secretary of state for the Home Department, shall be at liberty to evict you from the property”.

There are 76 Afghan families in the county, with an average of five to six people in each, in need of permanent accommodation, according to figures from Essex County Council and Southend City Council.

Some families have 10 or 12 members and charities, councils and the Home Office have had to look for properties with up to five or six bedrooms.

A charity that works with the refugees feared that half of the 410 people at risk of losing their accommodation could end up homeless.

Eddie Campbell, from Essex Integration
Image caption,Eddie Campbell, from Essex Integration, said he thinks “about 50%” of refugees “will have to present themselves homeless to their local council or one of their choice”

Eddie Campbell, from Essex Integration, a project which supports Afghans in hotels, said they called letting agents regarding 60-70 properties per week, but “less than 1% will actually take a family on”.

“[There are] a number of issues – people are not in work, they don’t have a guarantor and the agent and landlord just doesn’t want to take a risk,” he said.

He said he thought “about 50% of them… will have to present themselves as homeless to their local council or [another] one of their choice”.

Naqeeb Khilji, 52, who has lived in hotels with his wife and four children after managing to get out of Afghanistan in August 2021, said he and most of the Afghan families were “depressed and worried”.

He said he worked as a taxi driver and had tried to rent a three-bedroom property in Chelmsford, but had been told he would need three times the income and a guarantor with at least £40,000.

“Everyone is in stress because we don’t know where they are going to send us,” he said.

“Another hotel, temporary accommodation, permanent accommodation, house, flat? No idea. Everyone is worried in my family.”

He added that some families said they would go back to Afghanistan if they got the chance.

“[They said] we would be happy to go back and die there, because hotel life is killing me every day,” he said.

“[But]I can see a bright future for my family once I get a house because I am already working.”

Colchester's Liberal Democrat, council leader, David King
Image caption,Colchester’s Liberal Democrat council leader David King said the authority did not have the housing stock available

In a letter, Colchester City Council’s Liberal Democrat leader, David King, and chief executive, Pamela Donnelly, called on the Home Office to extend the hotel stays “lest you make over 200 people homeless on 4 August”.

“That would be a great wrong, given the promises we made as a nation,” they said.

The council said it did not have the housing stock available.

Mr King said: “It’s dreadful because it betrays the original promise – we will welcome you, we will support you, we will look after you because you Afghans supported us and our armed forces.”

He added that “the lack of notice is the challenge” because “there is only a limited supply of housing whether it is public or private”.

Meanwhile, Chelmsford City Council said the authority already had nearly 400 households in temporary accommodation and it could “anticipate some Afghan families may approach us”.

“Any additional families made homeless in our district will add to a system already under intense strain,” a spokesman said.

Southend City Council said it was “working hard, and with good success, to get [refugees] suitable places to live, both here and in other towns and cities of their choosing”.

Conservative councillor, David Garston, said: “Those who are not able to fully support themselves yet, will be supported to submit a homelessness application.”

A government spokesman said it was not in the interests of the Afghans resettled in the UK “to be living in hotel accommodation for months or years on end”.

A statement said: “That is why we have announced a plan, backed by £285m of new funding, to speed up the resettlement of Afghan nationals into long-term homes.

“Extensive government support is available and we will continue to do all we can to help Afghan families as they rebuild their lives here.”

Elsewhere in the region, West Northamptonshire Council said more than 500 Afghans had lived at two bridging hotels in its district since September 2021, 350 of whom had since found settled accommodation.

Its resettlement team was finding appropriate support and accommodation for the dozens still in need of help, it added.

Conservative councillor David Smith said that since the announcement, 54 people had found new homes.

“These have been a mixture of families finding their own accommodation in the private sector; supported into tenancies by the council, and direct property offers from North Northamptonshire Council,” he added.

A further 30 people were expected to moved out of hotels by the end of June, the council said.

Source : BBC