Afghan refugees feel like ‘prisoner

Many of the Afghans who were evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban’s takeover have said that they feel like ‘prisoners’ in UK quarantine accommodation and have no idea as to what will happen to them.

Following their hasty retreat from Kabul following the Taliban’s takeover and after spending ten days quarantining in ‘Covid 19 secure’ accommodation at government run hotels near Heathrow Airport refugees describe the experience like being in prison with tight security, limited access to fresh air, bad hygiene facilities and bad food.

The say they feel like prisoners  but even prisoners are allowed to go outside for an hour or two per day whereas they were allowed outside for just 15 minutes.  There are many children inside the hotels very frightened and crying.  Families do not have any basic items such as clothes and shoes  or toiletries.

Charities have been forced to provide these shortfalls and have delivered donations of nappies and food.

Maddie Harris from Humans for Rights Network says that this situation has been ongoing for over a year.  Asylum seekers and refugees in government-run hotels describe ‘being controlled and surveilled’.  Those in this government run accommodation received little official support from government contractors and it is difficult for refugee organisations to find and access the hotels in order to provide assistance.

Many Afghans have said they have received no information from the UK Home Office on where they will go next despite the offers of a ‘warm welcome’ and the promise of permanent accommodation.  Many have been in quarantine accommodation for longer than the mandatory 10 days.

“The Government promised us we would be provided with accommodation right after our quarantine but they have not communicated with us regarding the next steps”said one Afghan. “We feel like we are in a prison now because our quarantine period has passed, but why are they still keeping us here ?”

A letter from the UK government which was sent to the refugees in the hotel, said they can stay in the quarantine hotels free of charge ‘until onwards accommodation is arranged’ but they must ‘observe Covid secure measures’.

The UK Government  has been scrambling to find accommodation for the Afghan refugees evacuated to the UK under the Afghan Relocations Assistance Policy (ARUP) scheme.

The ARUP scheme under which over 8,000 Afghans are eligible to come to the UK – sits separately from the 20,000 Afghans who are to be resettled in the UK during the next five years under the government’s new Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS).

According to latest information over 2,000 places have already been confirmed and the government is presently working with over a 100 councils.  This leaves roughly a third to half of Afghans still in need of a place to stay.  There have been many generous offers from the UK public offering use of spare rooms, and negotiations with holiday park owners, but there are still many gaps to be filled.

Asylum seekers in UK hotels have told how they have waited a long time to hear back from the Home Office and these uncertain conditions and limited access to services are causing their mental health to worsen.