Our life has been put on pause, says Afghan evacuee after 11 months in a hotel in the UK

Marwa Koofi said she feels like a year has passed

Marwa Koofi said she feels a year has been “wasted” in UK hotels as her family await news of permanent accommodation from the Home Office (Marwa Koofi/PA)

An Afghan evacuee who lived in a hotel near Leeds for almost a year has described feeling like his family’s “life has been put on pause” as they wait for news of permanent accommodation from the Home Office.

In a letter seen by the BBC, Refugees Secretary Lord Harrington appealed for councils to help house the 10,500 Afghans currently staying in hotels across the UK.

Marwa Koofi, 21, fled Kabul in Afghanistan when the city fell to the Taliban last August and has lived in two hotels for the past 12 months.

She said the year has felt “wasted” and has recently been split up from family members after three of them were moved from a hotel in Selby, North Yorkshire, to one near Crawley, West Sussex.

“I stayed in a hotel for 11 months, I don’t want to stay in a hotel for another 11 months,” Koofi, who will study international relations at King’s College London in September, told the PA news agency.

Marwa Koofi was recently moved from a hotel in Selby, North Yorkshire to one near Crawley, West Sussex (Marwa Koofi/PA)

Marwa Koofi was recently moved from a hotel in Selby, North Yorkshire to one near Crawley, West Sussex (Marwa Koofi/PA)

“I wasted a year because my hotel (in Selby) was in a place where I couldn’t do anything.

“When I look back on the year, I just see it as a blank – it’s nothing, I haven’t done anything.

“You don’t even have the energy to get out of bed because you know your day is nothing.

“I feel like our lives are on pause, I just want our lives to be played.”

Ms Koofi was moved to the hotel near Crawley on July 26 where she lives with her mother and brother.

Her 35-year-old sister remains at the hotel outside Leeds, while Ms Koofi’s two brothers, aged 23 and 26, were sent to a hotel in Manchester.

She said being separated from her family has reopened psychological wounds inflicted after they left their home in Afghanistan.

“With Leeds we were all together and we were there for each other,” she said.

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

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

“We had a wound after leaving Afghanistan and with each other, we tried to bandage it and we were fine and the wound stopped bleeding.

“But after tearing the families apart, it’s like the bandages have been removed and they’ve started bleeding.

“The memories of Afghanistan come every day, and since we are alone, we have more time to think about what happened to us.”

Ms Koofi said Lord Harrington’s push to house Afghan refugees is only “a good idea” if it is to be realised.

“This is something the Afghans really want, I hope this one does not fail,” she said.

“I want that feeling after losing my house in Afghanistan, and what I want is to have a house that feels like home.

“When you feel like you’re in a house and it’s your own home and you can clean your room, arrange your house, it might not feel like your own country, but you can feel like it’s your house.”

I don’t feel hope anymore

Marwa Koofi

The student added that she and her family have begun to lose hope of finding permanent accommodation.

“There’s always hope and there’s always a bright light, but I want to feel that word again,” she said.

“I don’t feel it anymore.

“No one else does—no one in my family.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The response to the crisis in Afghanistan last August was one of the most challenging, intense and complex overseas operations undertaken by the UK, and the largest air evacuation operation in recent times.

“We are proud that this country has provided homes for more than 7,000 Afghan evacuees in such a short space of time, but we face a challenge that there is currently not enough local housing in the UK, not just for Afghans and those in need .protection, but also British citizens who are also on the housing waiting list.

“Although hotels do not offer a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation.

“We will continue to reduce the number of people in bridge hotels, and move people to more sustainable accommodation as quickly as possible.”

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