Hotels are 'not suitable for housing Afghan refugees', says Sheffield council chief

Sheffield is offering sanctuary to Afghan refugees but the council’s housing chief says hotels are not appropriate accommodation.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 12:55 pm

The council pledged in July to relocate 26 individuals and so far, 19 have been relocated and supported.

Coun Christina Gilligan Kubo asked at a meeting how many Afghan refugees Sheffield was expecting to take and what arrangements had been made for housing them.

Coun Paul Wood, Executive member for housing, said there were two schemes – the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme.

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Coun Paul Wood.

He said: “The ARAP scheme is to support Locally Employed Staff and their families, these are Afghans who have worked for the UK forces in Afghanistan.

“The council is working closely with the Home Office and Migration Yorkshire on future support that may be required.

“The council has, to date, not required to use hotel accommodation for its own placements. We are working with landlords in the city to increase the type and range of homes to support any new arrivals.

“The council is working with the Home Office on future plans. We have always maintained that hotels are not appropriate for housing refugees, but the Home Office has, on occasions, thought otherwise.”

Five-year-old Mohammed Munib Majeedi fell to his death from a window at the Metropolitan Hotel on Blonk Street last month.

He and his family fled from Afghanistan to escape the Taliban and had recently arrived in the UK to seek asylum and protection. They had been placed at the hotel by the Home Office.

An inquest, which recently opened, heard Mohammed’s father had been an embassy worker in Kabul, so the family were able to bypass the asylum seeking process and stay in the UK.

The Home Office said it was extremely saddened by the tragic death of Mohammed and it was providing accommodation and support.

But it added that Afghan refugees must stay in hotels initially.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are working urgently to ensure thousands of Afghans who were evacuated to the UK in exceptional circumstances receive the support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education, and integrate into their local communities.

“Due to the unprecedented demand, we have had to use temporary accommodation such as hotels to manage demands on the asylum estate.

“In addition, arrivals from Afghanistan must fulfil the mandatory quarantine period in the UK, and must stay in hotels to do this.

“We are very grateful to local authorities, including Sheffield, who are supporting these initiatives and would encourage others to offer their support.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says the UK has evacuated 17,000 people since the beginning of April and the Home Office says 8,000 of those were ARAP claimants.

In addition to ARAP, the government says the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will allow a total of 20,000 to settle in the UK in the long term with up to 5,000 in the first year.