An Afghan evacuee who lived in a hotel near Leeds for nearly a year described feeling that her “family’s lives are on hold” as they await news of permanent accommodation from the Home Office.
In a letter seen by the BBC, refugee minister Lord Harrington appealed to councils to help house the 10,500 Afghans currently staying in hotels across the UK.
Marwa Koofi, 21, fled Kabul, Afghanistan, when the city fell to the Taliban in August last year and has lived in two hotels for the past 12 months.
She said the year was “wasted” and was recently separated from family members after three of them were moved from a hotel in Selby, North Yorkshire, to one near Crawley, West Sussex.
“I stayed in a hotel for 11 months, I don’t want to stay in a hotel for another 11 months,” Koofi, who is due to study international relations at King’s College London in September, told the PA news agency.
“I lost a year because my hotel (in Selby) was in a place where I couldn’t do anything.
“When I think about the year, I see it as a blank space – it’s nothing, I didn’t do anything.
“You don’t even have the energy to get out of bed because you know your day is nothing.
“I feel like our lives are on pause, I just want our lives to be played.”
Mrs. Koofi was transferred to the hotel near Crawley on July 26, where she stays with her mother and brother.
His 35-year-old sister remains at the hotel on the outskirts of Leeds, while Koofi’s two brothers, 23 and 26, have been sent to a hotel in Manchester.
She said being separated from her family reopened the psychological wounds inflicted after leaving her home in Afghanistan.
“With Leeds, we were all together and we were there for each other,” she said.
“We had a wound from leaving Afghanistan and together we tried to bandage it and we were fine and the wound was no longer bleeding.
“But after dividing families, it’s like the bandages are removed and they start to bleed.
“Memories of Afghanistan come every day, and as we are alone, we have more time to think about what happened to us.”
Koofi said Lord Harrington’s effort to shelter Afghan refugees is only “a great idea” if it is to materialize.
“This is something that Afghans really want, I hope this one doesn’t fail,” she said.
“I want to have that feeling after losing my home in Afghanistan and what I want is to have a home that makes me feel at home.
“When you feel like you’re in a house and it’s your own house and you can clean your room, tidy your house, maybe it doesn’t feel like your own country, but you can feel like it’s your home.”
I don’t feel hope anymore
The student added that she and her family began to lose hope of finding permanent accommodation.
“There’s always hope and there’s always a bright light, but I want to feel that word again,” she said.
“I don’t feel anymore.
“No one else knows – no one in my family.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The response to the crisis in Afghanistan last August was one of the most challenging, intense and complex overseas operations undertaken by the UK and the largest air evacuation operation in recent memory.
“We are proud that this country has provided homes for over 7,000 Afghan evacuees in such a short time, but we face the challenge of not having enough local accommodation in the UK, not just for Afghans and the needy. protection, but also British nationals who are also on the waiting list for homes.
“While hotels do not offer a long-term solution, they do provide safe, secure and clean accommodation.
“We will continue to reduce the number of people in transitional hotels, moving people to more sustainable accommodations as quickly as possible.”