John has called on the Home Secretary to provide the support the Government promised after two visits to the Holiday Inn in Manvers which saw Afghan nationals arrive on Monday 13 September.
They were airlifted from Kabul then quarantined in London. They have come to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme, for those who helped British forces or the Government, or fear for their lives from the Taliban.
Council volunteers, GP surgery and hotel staff and the Aldi supermarket nearby have stepped in and are doing their best to help them settle in.
But the support pledged by the Home Office is not yet in place.
John said: “These are people in most cases who risked their lives when they worked alongside our British troops, Government officials or aid workers in Afghanistan.
“They feared for their lives, some have had relatives captured or killed by the Taliban. They still fear for the families they had to leave behind, with the Taliban going door to door. They are racked by the thought that they are here but some family are still there and still at risk.
“The stories are really traumatic. One man had a teenage son who was killed in the suicide bomb outside the airport during the evacuation, another got separated from his wife and newborn son because she lost her paperwork.
“These are the kinds of things they’ve been through and still live with and quite rightly we as a country are going to give them a chance to put their lives back together – but there’s some immediate help they need and that’s just not yet in place.
“I want to make sure we give them the support that’s required because they want to be able to rebuild their lives, settle their kids into schools – there are about 30 children at the hotel – and they want to be able to start work and contribute to Britain as their new country.
“These are British embassy staff, doctors, teachers, interpreters, journalists – they have a lot to give.”
The Home Office decided to use the hotel as ‘bridging accommodation’ until more permanent homes can be found elsewhere in the country.
John added: “It needs to be every council area so all parts of the country are contributing, and it needs to be additional to the regular council waiting lists. This is a crisis scheme and the Government must make sure it works with funding to back it up so those who also need housing or help don’t lose out.”
John has written to the Home Secretary urging her to provide the support the Government has promised:
- A DWP officer, to act as a central onsite contact for families who have questions, concerns about relatives, need information or help to access services
- A special ARAP card, giving the Afghan nationals access to cash and a National Insurance number so they can work
- Accurate paperwork confirming they have the right to stay and work from day one
John added: “This is a Home Office scheme with no Home Office support or presence on site. We could be doing a better job and it’s important I tell the Home Secretary where the gaps are
“They arrived after 20 days in quarantine and their Home Office paperwork is negligible, incomplete, wrong or missing.
“Hats off to the council who have stepped in and are trying to make sure these refugees driven out of Afghanistan by the Taliban do find a warm welcome, as the Government promised.
“And it’s really important the Government works now to make sure those who are eligible but couldn’t get out in the evacuation can come to Britain if they can get out of Afghanistan, because this group of people have given us so much and that’s the commitment we have given them.”