Treat us like human beings, say Afghan refugees who have received lack of support from authorities

Hamid Hakimi, a former interpreter for the British military, says he fears for his pregnant wife who is acutely depressed because of the isolation they feel in the remote part of Scotland.

Some newly-arrived Afghan refugees regret fleeing the Taliban and certain death because of a lack of support from UK authorities, i has learned.

People who fled Afghanistan amid the takeover by the extremist militant group say their fears for loved ones who they had to leave behind has also made starting a new life in Britain extremely difficult.

i has been told by several Afghan refugees who worked for the British government and military in the country that they have been moved to unsuitable accommodation or left to languish in bridging hotels.

One couple, who are expecting a baby, were moved at short notice to the remote town of Wick in the Scottish Highlands, which does not have a mosque or a halal food store.

Hamid Hakimi, 26, a former interpreter for the British armed forces, said he is having to take a costly two and half hour bus journey to Inverness to stock up on halal food once a month.

But his main concern is for his wife, Maryam Orfani, 19, who is 12 weeks pregnant and suffering with acute depression which she says is because she feels isolated from friends and family who were also evacuated to the UK and are now at least an eight-hour journey away.

“One week I took her to the A&E department at a hospital three nights in a row. She fell over, she wasn’t eating or drinking, she was dehydrated and they gave her liquids,” he said.

Still struggling to keep food down after her hospitalisation, Ms Orfani has lost 1.5st since arriving in the UK despite her pregnancy.

“I’m scared of what will happen to my child if I continue to live in that situation, I really need peer support,” said Ms Orfani. “There is no one around me [aside from my husband] to speak to or share my concerns with and this is giving me such a difficult time, it’s giving me depression.”

A Government spokesperson said:

“The Government has undertaken the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping over 15,000 people to safety.

“There is a huge cross- government effort underway to secure permanent homes for Afghan families to allow them to settle and rebuild their lives, and to ensure those still temporarily accommodated in hotels have access to healthcare, education, essential items, benefits such as Universal Credit and employment opportunities.”

“Councils have been given integration funding of £20,520 per person over three years to support those starting a new life in the UK, with additional funding for children entering education and to ensure people can access healthcare.”

Compounding her mental health is the fact that her father – who worked for the coalition forces – and other family members are stuck in Afghanistan, frequently moving homes to evade retribution from the Taliban.

They have attempted to contact Highland Council about being moved from their current home, which is so damp that the wallpaper they put up has fallen off, to another local authority.

Despite their efforts, including a letter from Ms Orfani’s midwife to the council stating that relocating them to somewhere where they have peer support would reduce both her and her unborn child’s “vulnerability”, they claim the council has rejected to support such a move.

Instead, they have allegedly been told to use their own money to move elsewhere, but Mr Hakimi cited the lack of prospects in the town. He has attempted to apply for a handful of available jobs, including as a temporary Christmas worker at Tesco, but has so far been rejected.

Despite the likelihood that he would have been killed by the Taliban because of his work with the British military, Mr Hakimi said the couple had at one point unsuccessfully begged to be sent back to Kabul.

“In Afghanistan, we might die in one year or in a month, but in Wick we die every day,” he said.

“We helped the British government, that’s why they brought us here. We put our lives in danger and our families lives in danger. Then we lost everything because we worked for them. They should treat us like human beings.”

In response to the claims about their housing situation, Highland Council said it did not comment on individual cases.

Another former interpreter, who was also brought to the UK under the government’s Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), said he had been told he and his family will be moved from affordable temporary housing in London to private-rented accommodation.

He fears this will swallow up the majority of their allowance until he is able to find work, with £240 a month currently going towards energy bills because they were placed on an unfixed tariff. Despite trying to contact a caseworker – which are assigned from councils to refugees who have been moved into the community – to express his concerns, he said they had been “unresponsive”.

“If I knew I’d end up in the situation I’m in now, I would not have come here. I would rather stay there with my family, be it that the Taliban would kill us, because being here is difficult every minute,” he said. “I spend all of my time thinking about my future, and the future of my children.”

In response, his local authority said refugees were given priority for council homes, alongside other groups, but a lack of stock meant that some would be placed into temporary accommodation before being able to access social housing.

Nasima Karimi, 33, a former HR officer at the British embassy in Kabul, said she had been living with her mother in a bridging hotel since arriving in the UK on 25 August.

Having yet to be assigned a caseworker, she said she did not know who to turn to with her concerns and had no knowledge of when she might be moved into longer-term accommodation.

Her brother and sister were not evacuated, despite the house they shared with Nasima and her mother previously being attacked by the Taliban and the threat they face for their indirect association with the British government.

“I’m thankful for being evacuated, but the safety doesn’t mean I’m ok. We do not feel good. We have a lot of worries and anxieties for my siblings,” she said.

“My mother is ill, I want to get a job and pursue my education but now I have to look after my mother alone because no-one else is here to help me. I don’t have any opportunities here.”

Refugee Action said it was aware of Afghans being sent to “places that do not easily support their integration”, as well as a lack of support being offered to those in bridging hotels.

“Refugees need to be matched carefully to places and environments where they have family links, friendship and employment prospects,” said Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding.

“The Government is not investing enough in the support to people in hotels, understanding their needs and finding the right new homes for them. This will inevitably lead to isolation and distress for the families involved.”

Refugee Council said the speed at which evacuation efforts took place before and after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, as well as the sheer number of refugees, meant some considerations may not be being made when matching people to homes.

“At the moment, [the Home Office] has got thousands of people in hotels, they’re trying to move them into local authorities as quickly as they can and the main consideration is matching the size of the family unit to the size of available accommodation,” said head of advocacy, Andy Hewitt.

A government spokesperson said: “The Government has undertaken the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping over 15,000 people to safety.

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Published by MigrationUK

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