Afghans who recently arrived in the UK after fleeing the Taliban takeover have asked to be returned, casting doubt on the success of Operation Warm Welcome, the government’s Afghan resettlement program.
It was launched by Boris Johnson on August 29 to help Afghan refugees arriving in the UK by providing support so that they can ‘rebuild their lives, find work, continue their education and integrate into their local communities. “.
However, a widespread housing shortage means hotels have been requisitioned as emergency temporary accommodation for 7,000 Afghan refugees, with Interior Ministry officials admitting some will be held there for months.
Some refugees already have enough. A doctor, who has been working with the newly arrived Afghans for weeks but who requested anonymity, said: “I have had a few patients who have told me they want to go home. One guy, who was 67, kept saying, “I can’t take it anymore. I have to get out of this [hotel] room.’ The GP, an Afghan who fled the country in 2000 when the Taliban was previously in power, added: “Another said, ‘I just want to be released from the hotel.’ I had to put him and his wife on medication because they were so upset.
There are also concerns about healthcare for those held in hotels after the evacuation from Kabul airport, a charity describing confusion over access to local GPs.
A council chief called the government‘s program a “shocking failure.” Councilor Danny Thorpe of the Royal Borough of Greenwich in south-east London said the lack of organized government support when 700 Afghans arrived in the district in August was “unforgivable”. “It was one of the most shocking government failures I have ever encountered,” he said.
Thorpe accused government officials of not providing enough support or sending enough officials when hundreds of Afghans were initially accommodated in hotels in his ward during their 10-day Covid quarantine.
He said: “There was a huge disconnect between the rhetoric of senior government officials and their actions to support these people. “
When Greenwich Council told the government it was on the verge of running out of baby milk, Thorpe says he was told some would be delivered “in a few days”.
In Sheffield, where a five-year-old Afghan refugee died from a hotel window in August shortly after arriving in the UK, local council is concerned about the adequacy of hotels to accommodate Afghan refugees. A spokesperson said he shared his doubts with the Home Office, but would not elaborate on the response he received.
Meanwhile, the Local Government Association, which represents 328 of the 333 councils in England, called on the Home Office to reduce confusion in the data it sends to different places about the real number of Afghans and their needs. “The government needs to engage more fully with local authorities and regularly share data on the numbers, needs and strengths of Afghan refugees and other recently resettled people,” said an LGA spokesperson.
Jill O’Leary, chief medical officer of the Helen Bamber Foundation, which works with 650 clients, said the situation was “muddled and confused,” with some hotel entrepreneurs unaware they were obligated to help Afghans get on with it. register with a general practitioner and explain their rights. . “When we consider the needs of the people, there seems to be a blind spot with the Home Office when it comes to vulnerability,” she said.
A spokesperson for Medact, a health charity that advocates for the protection of human rights to healthcare, said he was concerned about the asylum seekers’ provisions, including those of the Operation Warm Welcome. They said: “The Home Office has a legal obligation to provide at least minimal support to otherwise poor asylum seekers, but the arrangements made by the Home Office and its subcontractors to accommodate those waiting in publicly funded interim accommodation are medically unsafe. ”
The Afghan general practitioner added that initially, when Afghan arrivals were placed in hotels, medical care was “insufficient”. She described an incident at a hotel where she found a disabled child suffering from malnutrition who had not been registered with medical authorities.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The UK’s largest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history has helped more than 15,000 people reach safety, and the hotels remain a temporary measure to help accommodate those we have brought here. It will take time to find permanent housing for everyone, but we are urgently working with our partners to do so.
“Our aim is to help all those who are resettled here have a successful life in the UK, and that is why we are working tirelessly to provide comprehensive support to families. This includes working closely with local authorities across the UK to ensure that anyone temporarily staying in hotels has access to essentials, healthcare, education and universal credit. “