North Yorkshire Afghan refugee says 'sometimes we cry and count the days until we are given a house'

A refugee who worked alongside the British military during the Afghanistan War has said he and his family sometimes "cry and count the days" until they are given a home.

The man, who we have called 'Ajmal' to protect his identity, said his family are still living with hundreds of other Afghan refugees in a North Yorkshire hotel a year on from the Operation Pitting evacuation.

He told ITV News Tyne Tees: "We can’t apply for a job or driving licence as we don’t have a permanent address.

"Most of the people living in the hotel are struggling with their mental health. After the start of the Ukrainian refugee scheme we were largely forgotten.

"Sometimes we cry and count the days until we can be given a house, so we can contribute to society."

Although the hotel provides the family with security, he said the facilities were lacking.

"There’s no appropriate food," he added. "There’s a lack of space for the kids to play.

"There’s a large amount of people within the one hotel, which is designed for adults on a beach holiday, not for accommodating Afghan families.

"We served shoulder by shoulder with the UK military and diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. Now the UK government has to do its best for us."

Afghan refugees at Kabul Airport, August 2021 Credit: ITV News

Labour MP for York Central, Rachael Maskell, said she is concerned that Afghan families are still living in temporary accommodation a year after the withdrawal.

She called on the government to start thinking creatively, drawing comparisons with the plight of Ukrainian refugees.

"I think we’ve got opportunities for placing Afghan refugees within the community in people’s homes like we have with the Ukrainian refugees, but also looking at empty estates," said Ms Maskell.

"Here in York we’ve got several empty care homes. For larger families these could easily be converted into suitable accommodation for Afghan refugees to at least have a place and a location where they can access services."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We have a comprehensive package in place to welcome up to 20,000 people in need through the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme.

"We are proud this country has provided homes for more than 7,000 Afghan evacuees, but there is a shortage of local housing accommodation for all.

"While hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation.

"We will continue to bring down the number of people in bridging hotels by working with local authorities."

Seven thousand Afghan refugees have been permanently housed, but thousands more wait in hotels. Credit: ITV News

Another man who also worked alongside the British in Afghanistan has successfully settled in Harrogate with his family.

He has been given a house to live in with his wife and three children and has now managed to find work.

He said: "It was really difficult for me, because we came to a country where everything is quite different.

"The culture, the regulations, the laws, everything was quite different for us.

"It was very difficult when we first came here and then the families, they come and they ask us anything you need, we are here to help you and step by step we asked people and they helped us and they have something that we needed, they bring for us."

His wife, struggling to keep back her tears, described the pain she felt leaving her family in Afghanistan.

"It really hurt me that I left behind my family, but now we are in a safe place and everything is going well," she said.

"I have my own house. My husband has a job. My children will go to school and nursery and everything is going well now."

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