UK: the UK Home Office has informed hundreds of Afghan refugees who have lived in London for the past 18 months that they must relocate 200 miles to the north, to West Yorkshire, within a week.
They are among the 9,000 Afghans who fled the Taliban and are now living in temporary housing all over the UK. As part of Operation Pitting, which was started in August 2021 to evacuate Afghans and British nationals who had served with and fought alongside UK forces from the country after the Taliban seized power, they left their home country.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time, "We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us at great risk to themselves."
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The Home Office has now instructed 40 families—including 150 children—who have resided in a hotel in Kensington for more than a year to relocate to Wetherby, close to Leeds.
Some of the refugees, including a former general and translators who helped British Army troops, told the Guardian that they are refusing to leave because doing so would force their already-traumatized children to go through the upheaval of switching schools in the middle of the school year.
Some people have found jobs in London and are concerned about leaving them and having to look for employment elsewhere.
One of the refugees told the Guardian that the majority of the Afghans residing in the hotel have made the decision to protest the proposed relocation.
The government has broken a number of promises it made to refugees that it would help them find permanent housing, according to Hamidullah Khan, a former parliamentary adviser in Kabul who now lives in the UK with his wife and three sons.
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When we questioned the Home Office about their motivation, they responded, "This hotel is pricey. The hotel in Leeds costs less. But the Home Office made the decision to put us in this hotel and this neighbourhood, not us," Khan said.
"We have now been present for 18 months without our consent. The local schools where our kids attend ask us to leave in the middle of the academic year.
Meanwhile, some locals in Wetherby expressed opposition to the choice to house Afghan refugees in a nearby hotel. One person complained to Leeds Live that the government was behaving "underhandedly and secretively."
The Home Office is required to "safeguard and promote the welfare of children when it makes any immigration decision" under the UK's Borders, Citizenship, and Immigration Act.
The refugees were informed they would need to relocate to the north months ago, a Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian.
Hotels do offer safe, secure, and clean lodging, the spokesperson said, but they do not offer a long-term solution. We'll keep reducing the number of people staying in bridging hotels and, as soon as possible, transitioning them to more environmentally friendly lodging.
"On rare occasions, families may be relocated from a hotel that is about to close to another hotel. In these situations, families are supported by their local authority and given adequate notice of a move. Although we are proud that our nation has given more than 7,500 Afghan refugees homes, there is a shortage of local housing for everyone.
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By the end of the year, the government hopes to relocate all Afghan refugees into permanent housing, according to briefings given to local councils.