A body working with Afghan refugees who put their lives at risk by working with British forces in fighting the Taliban has condemned a Home Office move to force them to leave a Scarborough hotel on Wednesday, saying it puts them at risk of “homelessness and destitution”.
While almost 40 Afghan people, including pregnant women, are still living in the hotel two years on from the fall of Kabul, North Yorkshire Council is aiming to move some of families out over the next few days to other temporary accommodation, to minimise numbers there on “closure day” of August 16.
Those working with the families, who the Home Office issued “legalistic, untranslated eviction notices” to in May, say it remains unclear how many refugees will still be living at the hotel on Wednesday, but state the experience of facing eviction has raised further trauma for the Afghan people.
A spokesperson for the Refugee Council, which has worked with the Afghans at the Scarborough hotel, said: “The eviction of Afghan families from hotels is very concerning, as it puts them at risk of 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.
“It’s vital that we uphold our pledge to relocate and house Afghans refugees, who deserve a chance to rebuild their lives. The Government’s current approach is only causing great misery and anxiety for Afghan families who have already experienced trauma and upheaval.
“We must see the Government halt evictions until accommodation is secured for Afghans still in hotels and ensure that all Afghan refugees are given the proper support and security they need to start their lives again in the UK.”
Another refugee worker said: “Three months has not been long to move all these families out. They thought they would be given an offer of housing in a place where they wanted to live, but had not appreciated there was a housing crisis in the UK.”
Some of the families have never received property offers, while others rejected the offers because they did not have relatives living nearby or they had not heard of the town.
With just days to go until the Scarborough hotel closes, some of the Afghan families are still waiting to hear from London authorities where they want to relocate to over whether they will accept a homelessness duty on the grounds that they have a local connection with relatives living in those areas.
They say progress has been made due to partnership working between the Home Office, Refugee Council, Beam Homeless Social Enterprise, the JobCentre, and North Yorkshire Council to overcome barriers, such as the two child benefit cap, to secure private rented properties and jobs for the families.
A Government move to provide up to £7,000 per refugee to fund accommodation has also been credited with helping Afghan families access suitable housing.
North Yorkshire Council’s corporate director of community development, Nic Harne, said: “We have received housing applications for three households, which is a total of nine individuals who were at risk of being made homeless at the end of this month.
“We want to reassure people that the council will provide temporary accommodation for the households as required. Where families have been accepted for homelessness support, we will support them in finding a permanent home.”
A Home Office spokeswoman added hotels were never designed to be, long-term accommodation for Afghans resettled in the UK and it was not in their best interests to be living in hotel accommodation for months or years on end.
She added: “We have worked closely with Local Authorities and NGOs on the hotel departures, and we are all in agreement this is the right thing to do for the taxpayer and for Afghans.
“We will continue to provide extensive support to all those in hotels, backed by £285 million of new funding to speed up the resettlement of Afghans into permanent accommodation, with many councils using this to provide deposits, furniture, rental top-ups and rent advances, among others.”