Some Afghan families who were placed in hotels before being put into temporary accommodation across the UK are being sent letters of eviction by the Home Office, Anadolu News Agency reports.
Speaking to Anadolu, Fahim Zazai, the founder of the Afghan Community and Welfare Centre in Walsall, said the government is telling people to accept the first offer or face eviction.
“Almost half of the families brought to the UK are still in hotels or temporary accommodation and are waiting to be settled into a permanent home. Some of these people received letters saying they either accept the only offer given by the government or evict the place they’re staying at,” Zazai said.
The “first offer” refers to a single housing option offer made by the government. These people either accept the offer and get housed in a random place, or reject the offer and go for a private tenancy.
The families generally reject the offer on the grounds of being too far from their family or friends in a country new to them. Although they have the option to rent a private home, this can be extremely difficult due to their financial circumstances or failure to provide references for assurance purposes.
Zazai said his charity had helped five families with finding private houses. “The government is helping by giving six months’ rent in advance, else it is really difficult to get the landlords to agree. With the housing crisis in the country, it is almost impossible to rent a house in London anyway.”
The families received the letters after the UK government announced in March that it would move all 24,500 Afghans out of temporary bridging accommodation or hotels this year and said they must accept the first offer given to them.
Thousands of Afghan citizens who served Britain in its army and other bodies were evacuated with their families from Afghanistan in what was reported as the biggest British military evacuation in over 70 years.
The UK evacuated about 18,000 people, including more than 6,000 British nationals, in the two weeks following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August 2021. But after the evacuation ended, thousands continued to flee the country and applied for the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) or Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
Some made it to the UK on their own and applied to one of those schemes, while others submitted their applications through British diplomatic missions in neighbouring nations.
“There are hundreds of people in Pakistan and they cannot be brought to the UK due to the housing issue. Some of these people have their papers approved and ready,” Zazai said.
The housing crisis in the UK may yet worsen as hundreds of Ukrainian refugees, currently being hosted by their British sponsors, may add to the burden on local authorities who already complain about not having enough homes to meet the demand.