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Thousands of Afghan refugees still housed in hotels and left in limbo

Home Office officials unable to say how long it would take for them to be moved to permanent homes

THOUSANDS of Afghan refugees airlifted out of Kabul are still living in hotel accommodation with no time set for when they will be permanently rehoused, MPs heard today. 

Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft confirmed that “almost all” of the 8,000 Afghan citizens brought to Britain are still in hotels one month on.

And 70 unaccompanied child refugees, including Afghans, are also living in hotels, he told the home affairs select committee. 

Over a two week period in August, about 15,000 people were airlifted from Kabul to Britain as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.

Of those more than 8,000 came to Britain through the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, a scheme to resettle Afghan citizens who worked for the British army and their families. 

Pressed on how many Afghan citizens are still in hotel accommodation, Mr Rycroft replied: “I think almost all of them … the 15,000 included the British nationals who were evacuated out of Afghanistan so in round numbers it was about 7,000 Afghans.”

Home Office officials were unable to say how long it would take for them to be moved to permanent homes. 

The delay comes despite reports that some councils already have accommodation ready for Afghan families, according to committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper. 

Ms Cooper said councils had been told by the Home Office “not to move Afghan families into [the houses] because there has to be a central system and process from the Home Office.”

Asked whether this is correct, Mr Rycroft said that full and proper assessments had to be carried out before people are transferred to increase the chance of “good matches ... where they will have the best possible chance of a successful resettlement.”
 
Ms Cooper asked how long this would take, saying one council had been told they could be waiting a couple of months for the process to be set up. 

Mr Rycroft replied: “I would hope that we’ll be able to get started with that process before the couple of months ... but clearly for some people it will take a lot longer than that.” 

Second permanent secretary to the Home Office Tricia Hayes told MPs there are 100 local authorities actively looking for places to house families. 

Asylum hotels have been widely condemned. A recent report by lawyers found conditions in hotels used by the Home Office to house asylum-seekers during the pandemic were akin to detention centres. 

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