Afghan evacuees who were brought to the UK after the fall of Kabul have been told not everyone will be found somewhere to live by the government.
A Home Office letter – seen by Sky News – has been sent out telling them the majority of the 8,000 people still in hotels will have to find their own accommodation.
The Government has become frustrated that some evacuees have turned down offers of housing – those who have said they do not want to move to an area they do not know or that the housing on offer is not big enough for their families.
It’s unclear how many offers have actually been made.
Sharareh Sarwari, 19, who was a journalist in Afghanistan and came to the UK in October last year on a resettlement scheme, told us she feels abandoned.
She said: “I feel like a homeless woman because I’m young and I came alone. It’s so hard for me, and I can’t find a job. They don’t have any plan for Afghan refugees.”
The letter applies to those still living in hotels who were airlifted out of Kabul in August 2021 or have since been relocated to the UK.
Unlike asylum seekers, Afghan evacuees can work and the government says it is time for them to move on and fully integrate into British society.
The letter reads: “If you do receive an allocated property, we recommend that you accept it. If you refuse, no further allocations of settled accommodation will be made and you will need to find your own accommodation.
“It is likely that most people will not receive an allocation through the new process, and we encourage you to find your own accommodation wherever possible.”
The letter goes on to advise people to look at property websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla and states that help will be on offer from the Home Office to guide them.
We spoke to several evacuees relocated to Hertfordshire who claimed they had not received any offers of accommodation so far and that they were struggling to arrange renting a property due to a lack of credit history.
Waheed Manan was airlifted out of Afghanistan with his wife and three children in the summer of 2021.
The 44-year-old was an electrical engineer in Afghanistan, an adviser to an Afghan minister and now works part-time in a shop. He said his children are finally settled in school after the trauma of the Taliban takeover.
Waheed said he wants to move on because living in a hotel without a permanent address makes it difficult to secure another job. But he claims he has viewed 25 properties and has not been accepted for any of them.
He said: “We cannot find a property that’s suitable to rent. We’re living in this area and we know the area. The children have been going to school and they’ve made some friends.”
Mohammed Jomegol, 45, has worked in the UK as a taxi driver since 2015.
He said he was living between the UK and Afghanistan when the Taliban re-took control and was evacuated back to Britain. He has held a British passport since 2007.
Mohammed brought his wife and four children with him but insists he needs to stay living in a hotel.
He said: “If the British government doesn’t support us how am I going to support myself?
“I’m looking every day but it’s hard. My income is not enough.”
After leaving “bridging” accommodation in the UK, Afghan evacuees have the same access to benefits and social housing as British citizens.
The Home Office says “hotels are not, and were never designed to be, suitable long-term accommodation for Afghans resettled in the UK” and that more than 9,000 Afghans have now been supported into homes.
But of the 8,000 Afghan evacuees still in hotels, around half are children and around half have been living in a hotel for more than a year.
The Home Office says that dedicated staff are on hand to offer guidance to Afghan evacuees on how to rent.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have announced a plan, backed by £285m of new funding, to speed up the resettlement of Afghans into long-term homes.”
“Where available, the Government will continue to make offers of suitable housing, which we strongly encourage Afghan families to accept. Where an offer cannot be made or is rejected, increased Government support is available to help Afghans find their own homes and begin rebuilding their lives here.”