By Zahra Shaheer, Afghan refugee, women’s rights activist and former TV presenter
I don’t think it was fair when the government announced that Afghan evacuees would have to leave their hotels without any choice over where they would go. Thousands of Afghans are living in these hotels and resettling in the UK. As new refugees, it is very difficult. The Government promised the evacuees a warm welcome. However, when they offered some houses, they were not suitable for some families. New refugees are struggling with cultural shock and their own problems as well as trauma after being forced to leave their homes. I think this decision adds to their anxiety and problems.
I believe that the hotels are not somewhere that refugees would want to stay, and the evacuees are more than happy to resettle as soon as possible. However, they have the right to choose their location and should be able to stay near their relatives if they have any. If they don’t have relatives in the area, they should be able to choose a place where they feel peace and comfort, and where they can access job opportunities.
Many families in hotels have children in school and have found jobs, so they need to resettle near those local areas. Now, these families’ anxiety and stress have doubled after this decision, and they are worried about being homeless.
Zahra’s daughter eating on the bed in their hotel room
As a former refugee who was once in a hotel, I understand how it feels to be offered a house in a new area with two children. When my council gave me a few days to think about accepting the house, it was difficult for me. I already had to leave everything behind back in my country and then I was forced to leave and move to a new place. I was not allowed to see the house in person, but my council was kind enough to send me some photos of the rooms. However, some families are not even allowed to see what their new house looks like. There are many women who are alone with their children and cannot speak English, making it challenging for them to live somewhere new without support. It is essential to consider their needs and help them settle in a location that suits their circumstances.
Zahra working from her new home
Refugees should have the right to make decisions and plan their lives like anyone else – and should be supported to integrate and make a contribution to society. Harsh policies which deny refugees choice and opportunity just hurt everyone.