05 February 2022

Refugee hotel rooms ‘not good value for money’ says Afghanistan evacuee

05 February 2022

A British man who was evacuated from Kabul just days after his wedding has described feeling “literally stuck” in a London hotel as thousands of refugees and asylum seekers await news of permanent accommodation from the Home Office.

Abdul and Fatima, whose names have been changed, were married at the beginning of August last year but fled to the UK soon after Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15.

Abdul, a 26-year-old medical student who was born in Afghanistan, told the PA news agency: “I think the Government is spending quite a lot in terms of providing rooms in the hotels but I don’t think it is good value for money in terms of the satisfaction it provides for people who are here.

“If you look at the (hotel) website, it costs more than £100 per night, so that will add up to possibly £5,000 or £6,000 per month.

The UK Armed Forces aided in the evacuation of British nationals and Afghans from Kabul (PA) (PA Media)

“If the Government had provided us with a flat for example, then it would have been good for the taxpayer as well – £500 or £600 (per month).”

Abdul and Fatima have been staying at Hilton London Metropole in Edgware Road since mid-September, where a queen guest room can cost between £120 and £200-plus per night depending on what date and day of the week a stay is booked for.

Abdul said that while the hotel facilities are “good”, he believes a lot of Government resources are being wasted.

“They are being wasted due to a lack of a comprehensive plan for providing permanent accommodation to evacuees,” he said.

“Initially, when we moved to this place from the quarantine hotel, we were told it will not take more than 85 days (to find accommodation) but it has been more than 140, 150 days.”

The Home Office has informed those living at the hotel their contract with Hilton London Metropole will end in March but gave no alternative living arrangements.

“We have not been given property assurance, whether we will be moved to a flat or another hotel,” Abdul explained.

When you live here, you feel like you are just stuck in one place... it doesn't feel like home.

“For people who are living here, the situation in Afghanistan was chaotic and people are experiencing PTSD as well due to that situation… being stuck in one place in an uncertain situation has certainly, I think, added to that psychological burden.”

And although the couple are “grateful” to the UK Government, Abdul does not believe those living at the hotel are happy and maintains he would prefer the “freedom” of a flat.

“We are grateful for the support in reallocating us at a time where the future was uncertain and we were stuck under the brutal Taliban regime – it was a matter of life and death,” he said.

“But people are literally stuck in these rooms, they can’t cook, they are just living on takeaways… although you’ve got the freedom to go out and about, you still don’t feel like you are contributing towards the community.

“When the public hear people are living in hotels, they may think it’s a nice place and (ask): ‘Why are they complaining about it?’ But actually when you live here, you feel like you are just stuck in one place… it doesn’t feel like home.”

Abdul was evacuated from Kabul in August and has been ‘literally stuck’ in a London hotel room for nearly five months (PA) (PA Wire)

There are currently 25,000 asylum seekers and 12,000 Afghan refugees in hotels, a total of 37,000, the Home Office told the Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

At Wednesday’s committee session, MPs were told that the Government is “optimistic” it will find a new way of working with councils “on how we manage these costs”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the policy is “thoroughly inadequate”, adding: “We do not want people in hotels.”

She also said the Government and local authorities are “absolutely struggling” to move Afghan refugees into more suitable, permanent accommodation as the country does not have sufficient infrastructure.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The use of hotels to house those resettled from Afghanistan is a short-term solution and we are working with local authorities to find appropriate long-term accommodation for them.

“We are proud this country has provided homes for more than 4,000 Afghan evacuees in such a short space of time.

“Through our huge cross-Government effort and in partnership with local authorities and the private rented sector, we will continue to secure permanent homes for Afghan families so they can settle and rebuild their lives.

“Over 300 local authorities have pledged to support Afghan families so far, and we continue to urge those who have not yet come forward, and those that can offer more housing places, to do so.”

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