This week marks one year since the fall of Kabul on 15th August, and an estimated 12,000 Afghan families are still living in UK hotels awaiting resettlement.
They were brought here because they and their family were considered to be in danger of life and limb from the Taliban due to their association with the UK Government and the Armed Forces. They were evacuated with the promise of permanent settlement into UK society.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has been supporting the Afghan families still trapped in hotels. President of the The SVP Good Shepherd Conference, Telford, Michael Coyle, tells the story…
The SVP members in Telford and Shrewsbury are supporting around 200 Afghan families who have been brought from the clutches of the Taliban to safety. They include parents, grandparents and children, who have now spent almost a year housed in hotels in Telford, with whole families crammed into single hotel bedrooms.
They are not refugees and are here under one of 2 schemes: ARAP or ACRS – designed to help them settle and integrate into UK society, and now, because of the situation in Ukraine, their plight is in danger of being forgotten.
For the families in Telford, and elsewhere around the UK, it is impossible for them to settle and build a new life, find permanent employment, have children settled permanently into school, to get access to higher education, to improve or validate their qualifications – without a permanent home, which must be provided for them under the provisions of ARAP and ACRS.
As you can imagine, being cooped up in hotel bedrooms for a year has not been easy for the families, some of whom are now becoming seriously depressed, and the four SVP Conferences in Telford and Shrewsbury are doing their utmost, working with the local Council and another local charity, to support them.
We became involved in August 2021 and Cathedral, St Patrick’s, and Our Lady’s Conferences joined in November. Between us. we, have provided dozens of mobile phones, beard trimmers, suitcases, pushchairs, shopping centre vouchers, clothing, cosmetics, and more. We have also joined forces with volunteers from Shropshire Supports Refugees to provide a successful, well-attended ESOL programme, with sessions taking place most weekdays. Conference members have also arranged social events to get the families out of the hotel for a bit of fun, including a day at the seaside.
The Conferences have also provided families with a contact card for when they move on.
With the help of staff from SVP we have also raised awareness of the plight of family members left behind in Afghanistan who are still in mortal danger from Taliban. Some have already been arrested and tortured and it is no longer safe for them to live in their homes.
All of this work required funding and support outside our own resources and we were helped by £5,000 in grants and the award of £1,000 from the local Council.
Wherever we turned we encountered good will and support; from the coach company, the venue for the social event, the caterer, the face painter, the local Council, Tesco cricket clubs, the faith school.
We have also lobbied MPs, including arranging a meeting with the local MP at the hotel, to ask them to resettle the families as soon as possible and also to ask for support in bringing over the family members left behind. We won’t stop until all the Afghans are settled.
With 15th August marking one year since the fall of Kabul, the SVP is asking people to send a letter to their MP calling on the UK government to resolve the failings of the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme. For a copy of the template please contact Phoebe Worthington