Afghan refugees 'dumped' in unsuitable Scarborough hotels months after fleeing Taliban

Afghan families fleeing persecution by the Taliban are continuing to be "dumped" in hotels chosen by the Home Office that local authority bosses have branded "totally unsuitable" due to their location or lack of facilities.

Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 12:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 12:49 pm

An officers' report to a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council's corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee next week has revealed that despite Whitehall mandarins being repeatedly told the hotels in Selby and Scarborough are inappropriate for the Afghan people, they were still being sent there.

In August last year, 92 Afghan refugees, including 64 children, arrived in Scarborough with a further 150 temporarily housed at two separate hotels by September – which prompted an outpouring of support and donations to charities in the seaside town.

The report states the situation has arisen as North Yorkshire plays its part in helping to respond to the largest and fastest human evacuation into the UK sparked by the withdrawal of western coalition forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent takeover of the country by the Taliban.

More than 200 Afghan refugees are currently being temporarily housed in two Scarborough hotels.

Between August last year and March this year, North Yorkshire County Council in partnership with district councils resettled 122 Afghans as part of a policy to help those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women's rights.

The councils have been involved in co-ordinating the service provision to the Afghan families in two "bridging accommodation" hotels in North Yorkshire while they wait to be moved to permanent housing elsewhere in the UK.

The report states: "New families continue to arrive at both hotels, but at a considerably slower pace and in smaller numbers than was the case in August 2021. One of the hotels in North Yorkshire will close at the end of June as part of the Home Office's rationalisation of the hotel estate."

More than 520 people have been supported across the two hotels, the rate of departures from which has been slow, the report states, partly due to issues matching arrivals to suitable properties.

Selby West councillor Melanie Davis told a recent North Yorkshire County Council meeting the Afghan refugees had been "largely forgotten" and called on the authority to subsidise buses so they could visit Selby and York.

She said while it had been decided the refugees would not be at the hotel beyond next month, it remained unclear where they would be sent.

Cllr Davis said: "They're dumped in a hotel in Selby with no facilities, no buses, nowhere to go. These people risked their lives working with us, for us."

The authority's Stronger Communities executive member Cllr David Chance said he shared Cllr Davis' concerns and that there were similar problems with refugees lodged in a hotel in Scarborough, but the Home Office had been faced with finding hotels where it could make block bookings.

He said: "It's not ideal, but we don't control it. All we can do is try wherever possible to provide wrap-around care that they need.

"We have told the Home Office from the start that the hotel is totally unsuitable. We continue to tell them that the hotel is totally unsuitable. It's miles away from anything, there are no shops, there's nothing for these people to do. "

He said each councillor had a Locality Budget of £10,000 a year to allow them to promote the social, economic, or environmental wellbeing of the communities they represent and respond to specific local needs, such as the Afghan refugees.

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