Afghan refugees reject homes in Scotland and Wales because ‘it’s cold and they don’t speak English’

Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul - Nicholas Guevara/AFP

Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul – Nicholas Guevara/AFP

Afghan refugees housed in hotels have refused to move to Scotland and Wales because they believe the countries are too cold and do not speak English, it has emerged.

Around 9,500 Afghans and their families who were evacuated from Kabul after the Taliban took over the country are still being accommodated in hotels a year on, at a cost of around £1 million a day.

This comes on top of the £3m-a-day bill for taxpayers for hotels for 26,000 asylum seekers including Channel migrants.

Around 7,000 Afghan refugees have been given permanent accommodation through councils, but Home Office officials have yet to find suitable homes for the remaining 9,500 evacuees.

Some have refused accommodation with reasons such as not wanting to go to Scotland or Wales because they believe they don’t speak the language and the countries are cold, according to sources.

House a “complex process”

Officials are understood to be “working hard” to break down misconceptions about life outside the south-east of England, but admit refugees arriving in the country see Britain through London’s prism.

Around 350 councils have signed up to house Afghan refugees, but officials said it was a complex process, particularly given the larger size of many families.

Lord Harrington, the refugee minister, has appealed for councils to help people out of hotels and into accommodation, saying that in June there were fewer than 100 properties available.

In a letter to councils, dated June 27, Lord Harrington said the Government needed a further 2,000 properties including more than 500 four-bedroom homes for the remaining 10,500 people.

He said the Government was reaching out to landlords, developers and the wider private rental sector, including property listings website Rightmove, to encourage further supply of properties.

Inadequate local accommodation

It is also working with educational institutions to convert properties into long-term housing, he wrote.

The Home Office said it faced a “challenge” of insufficient local residential accommodation in the UK, “not only for Afghans and those in need of protection, but also British citizens who are also on the housing waiting list”.

“While hotels do not offer a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation,” the Home Office added in its statement.

Several Afghans said that staying in hotels had left them unable to settle. “I know this is costing the British people, but for what?” one refugee told BBC Two’s Newsnight.

Mohammad, who is in his 40s, said: “I want to settle down and integrate, but how can I when we stay in hotels for months and months? I can’t start my life properly.”

He worked with the British Army in Afghanistan and came to the UK with his wife and two young children in August 2021.

He said his wife of 20 years was struggling after sharing one hotel room between the four of them since September.

“I don’t blame her [for struggling] because I know the situation. She is in that room for a year with two children. These are children and she’s depressed, so things are not good,” he said.

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