Afghan refugees in the UK asked to find new homes on Rightmove

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<p><figcaption class=Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Thousands of Afghan refugees who have been staying in UK hotels since the Taliban took over their country a year ago have been told by the Home Office to look for new accommodation on Rightmove or Zoopla.

On the first anniversary of Kabul’s fall, the government is still providing hotel accommodation to 9,500 Afghans who sought refuge in the UK, with only 7,000 being rehoused.

While charities welcomed the government’s move to end the use of hotels to house the refugees, they expressed concern that many would be unable to find suitable accommodation in the private rented sector and risk ending up homeless.

Afghan families with children will struggle to find accommodation that is large enough and that they can afford to use the housing allowance that is provided. Charities also raised the alarm that refugees may not have the language skills to negotiate their own tenancies, nor the necessary paperwork, such as passports and bank statements.

Home Office sources say that as well as encouraging Afghan families staying in hotels to look for their own accommodation, they aim to offer each family two choices of accommodation somewhere in the UK, although it is not known whether they will get a choice regarding where.

The Home Office said the accommodation offers would be “good, decent proposals” but that if families declined the offers, a further two months of hotel accommodation would be provided. It is not clear what would happen if the families were unable to secure accommodation after that.

Home Office sources say they are trying to encourage Afghan families to move to other parts of the UK such as Wales, but this can be difficult for families living in big cities such as London where their children go to school. Waiting lists for council housing are long, especially for larger properties that some Afghan families need because they have three or more children.

Although Afghan families have the right to rent under immigration rules and landlords can check this using an online tool, some are reluctant to rent to people who do not have British passports, or proof of living in the UK, such as utility bills and payslips. .

A letter sent by the Home Office to Afghan refugees says not all councils will accept a request to put them on their social housing waiting lists, so they are being urged to start looking in the private rented sector.

“Not all councils will support you so it’s important to check,” the letters say. They are urging refugees to search for more properties to increase their chances of finding a place as the UK housing market is “very competitive”.

Eva Tabbasam, the director of Gender Action for Peace and Security, expressed concern about the plans. She said: “Afghan families could not have imagined that one year after their arrival they would still be stored in unsuitable accommodation, without space, privacy and stability. There is also a serious risk of homelessness for these families if suitable accommodation is not provided under the current home office plans.

“The government has had a year to sort things out – instead it’s getting worse. If suitable accommodation was readily available for the 9,500 people still in hotels, families would have already been moved into it. We do not yet know what kind of accommodation families will be offered.”

Claire Holland, London Council’s executive member for communities, said: “Boroughs are very concerned about the lack of alternative housing options for these families – a particular challenge in the capital because of the chronic shortage of affordable housing here.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Using hotels to house those moving from Afghanistan is a temporary solution and we continue to work with over 350 local authorities to move Afghan families from hotels to permanent accommodation as quickly as possible.

“To support the resettlement of Afghan families, local authorities are given £20,520 per person over a three-year period. They have the flexibility to use this funding to contribute towards renting a home, including security deposit, letting fees and furnishing.”

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