'Homelessness' fears as Afghan refugees to be told to leave Southend hotel

·3-min read
'Homelessness' fears as almost 100 Afghan refugees to be told to leave Southend hotel <i>(Image: Google Street View / PA Wire)</i>
'Homelessness' fears as almost 100 Afghan refugees to be told to leave Southend hotel (Image: Google Street View / PA Wire)

Afghan refugees living in a Southend hotel are set to be forced to leave.

The refugees, who fled their home country after the Taliban swept back into power, were housed in The Park Inn by Radisson Palace, on Church Road, in September 2021.

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They were housed in the hotel by the Home Office with “no input” from Southend Council.

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And 18 months later, with the refugees still in the hotel, the government is set to axe the hotel housing.

“I am concerned about what feels like a hostile narrative around refugees in hotels and the anger directed towards them,” councillor Martin Terry, responsible for public protection, said.

“This needs to be handled properly to prevent further homelessness, they need to be treated humanely and respectfully,

“If the government can manage that, then this could be a good thing for Southend, as with upwards of 7 million visitors a year, we need every hotel room we can get.”

Following the announcement on Tuesday, a Southend Council spokesman said it was “too soon” to understand what role the council will play, if any, in the process.

The Home Office has refused to comment on individual hotels.

Under 100 asylum seekers are also still living in the Skylark Hotel in Rochford; Rochford Council and the Home Office have declined to comment on what will happen to them.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer says the £1 million daily cost of housing around 8,000 Afghan refugees across the UK, half of them children, in hotels is unsustainable.

The government will begin writing to individuals and families housed in the “Afghan bridging hotels” at the end of April, giving them “at least three months’ notice” before they are forced out.

“This will crystallise a reasonable timeframe in the minds of our Afghan friends – with significant support from central and local government – to find good, settled places to live in the longer term,” Mr Mercer said.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, says he is “deeply concerned” by details of the plan.

He said there is a “risk that they could lead to people who fled the Taliban in Afghanistan being left homeless and destitute on the streets of Britain”.

“Hotels are not the right place for refugees to live but the fact that thousands of Afghans have been left in them for months on end is a consequence of government mismanagement and a failure to work successfully in partnership with local councils and other agencies to find suitable housing,” Mr Solomon added.

The Local Government Association says councils will need extra resources to help find and fund accommodation for Afghans moved out of hotels.

The Home Office has promised the process of moving Afghans out of hotels will be staggered, with people being notified at different times to make sure there is not a “disproportionate demand for housing in one area”.

And Mr Mercer has promised “generous” support to help Afghans into settled accommodation, with trained staff based in hotels to provide advice on finding work, new homes and English lessons.

Some £35 million of new funding will help councils provide increased support to help people move from hotels.

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