‘We have heard that it could take months’: Afghan refugees waiting for home in UK | Immigration and asylum

After a hell of a journey that involved wading through sewage to reach Kabul airport and cramming into a military plane without seats, Farukhzad was relieved to be able to reach England in August.

But after six weeks in a hotel, the UN worker was hungry for a taste of home. The Home Office pays for three meals a day for her, her husband, Farhad, and their three young boys, but especially the children struggle with the food in Manchester. “All they want to eat is chips,” she despaired. “They like chips, but chips are not good every day for their health.”

So she took matters into her own hands. “Last night I talked to the chef and I sent him some recipes for Afghan food and he wants to buy some great dishes to make them,” she said happily.

She longs for her own kitchen, where she can rattle up the family’s favorite, Kabuli pulao, a rice dish with carrots and raisins, but she knows it can take many months before they are rehoused. “We are not sure, but we have heard from others that it could be between three and five months,” she said. Farhad hopes to go to university to study management, but they worry about tuition fees. “Maybe I can receive a scholarship?” he asked hopefully.

Farukhzad wants to know what English houses are like: will there be enough room for her three boys aged 11, eight and five? And can a woman have her name on her lap?

Farhad designed and built their five-story house in Kabul, which his wife decorated with ornate gilded sofas upholstered in royal blue velvet. They also traveled in style and mourn the Toyota Land Cruiser they had to leave behind.

Farukhzad hopes they will live in a city, ideally London, but knows in the end that they will not have a choice. Farhad, who worked on the last election campaign for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, wants the Interior Ministry to keep in mind where each family has come from. “Some people here are from a village, they like village life. But we live in a town and we like the town.”

A man walked past in tribal attire, followed by two young girls in matching traditional dress. “We have some people here who do not even know how to use the toilet. They all lived in one small room where there was only a small hole, ”said Farukhzad.

At the hotel near Manchester Airport, it seems that the hierarchies of Afghan society are reunited, with the best educated taking responsibility. Farukhzad not only changes the hotel’s menu – she and her friend, a judge from Kabul, try to bring order to other guests when volunteers from Care4Calais, a charity, hand over clothes and toiletries. Her next project is to get the hotel’s gym and swimming pool reopened so she does not have to do her daily jogs at the airport’s gyratory system.

The Army has been inside to conduct a census for the Home Office, and each guest has been given an NHS number. When the Guardian visited, no one still had a bank account or a national insurance number to receive the benefits that will help them build new lives.

There are kids everywhere running around the hallways and whizzing around the parking lot. Farukhzad’s boys are impeccable behavior and offer their hands to a non-Covid-safe handshake. She hopes they will go to school soon, but now they are enjoying their freedom. “They like this because they are free here. “In Kabul, we only let them go to school and come straight home because of the thieves and the risk of kidnapping,” she said.

The Guardian understands that two Afghan women had abortions in their hotel rooms shortly after arriving in the UK in August, where they suffered alone without medical attention. A person familiar with the situation said: “They were too scared to leave their rooms because they had no clean underwear, no sanitary napkins, nothing.”

An Interior Ministry spokesman said they could not comment on individual cases, but “NHS medics are available to provide care and support to all residents, and work with emergency services if necessary to respond appropriately and sensitively to critical incidents. “

They added: “The government is also working closely with local authorities, charities and volunteers to provide additional supplies, including clothing and hygiene products.”

The emergency distribution of an estimated 8,000 refugees occurred after the Interior Ministry was able to block a large number of hotel rooms. At least 1,000 people are in hotels in Greater Manchester, and around 4,000 have been placed in hotels in London, where Covid-related travel restrictions have created huge undercrowding.

In some parts of the country, refugees are being accommodated in hotels described by charity workers as “gain basements” and “cheap as chips”, but in some parts of London they are in four-star accommodation.

At a hotel in central London with a stucco front, the marble corridors echo the noise of children running. The entire 200-room building is booked out indefinitely to about 450 refugees, of whom 150 are children and 60 of them are under five years old.

In the lobby, a desk is placed in front of a large stone fireplace, under a series of oil paintings of hunting scenes with red-clad aristocrats on horses, where volunteers volunteered for refugees to collect donations of clothing from a distribution center in the basement.

The velvet sofas in the reception area were filled with teenagers waiting for something to happen. Children of primary school age waited with their parents in a windowless room in the basement for their turn to see through piles of clothes.

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