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

·3-min read
Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul - Nicholas Guevara/AFP
Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul - Nicholas Guevara/AFP

Afghan refugees housed in hotels have refused moves to Scotland and Wales because they believe the countries are too cold and don’t speak English, it has emerged.

Around 9,500 Afghans and their families evacuated from Kabul after the Taliban takeover of the country are still being housed in hotels a year on, at a cost of about £1 million a day.

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

About 7,000 Afghan refugees have received permanent accommodation through councils but Home Office officials have yet to find appropriate housing for the remaining 9,500 evacuees.

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

Housing a ‘complex process’

Officials are understood to be “working hard” to break down misconceptions about life outside the south-east of England but admit that refugees coming to the country see the UK through the prism of London.

About 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 refugees minister, has appealed to councils to help get people out of hotels and into housing, 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 another 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 rented sector, including property listing website Rightmove, to encourage further offers of properties.

Insufficient local accommodation

It is also working with education establishments on converting properties to long-term accommodation, he wrote.

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

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

Several Afghans said living 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 and integrate but how can I when we are living in a hotel for months and months? I can’t start my life properly.”

He worked alongside 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 one year with two kids. These are kids, and she is depressed, so things are not good,” he said.