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'Let us go back home,' beg Afghan refugees stuck in UK

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A member of the Border Force assists an Afghan refugee on her arrival at Heathrow airport in August. (Photo by AFP)

Many Afghan refugees, airlifted to the United Kingdom after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, have asked to be returned home as they grow weary of the British government’s failure to meet their basic needs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a program to resettle Afghan refugees, dubbed the Operation Warm Welcome, in late August. The operation was meant to help Afghan refugees “rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education and integrate into their local communities.”

But a widespread lack of housing means hotels have now been commandeered as emergency temporary accommodation for 7,000 Afghan refugees, with Home Office officials admitting that some will be held in them for months.

One doctor, who has been working with the newly arrived Afghans for weeks and requested anonymity, told the Guardian that “a few patients tell me they want to go home.”

“One guy, who was 67, kept saying: ‘I can’t take this anymore. I have to get out of this [hotel] room,’” said the doctor.

There are also concerns over healthcare for those held in hotels.

One council leader described the government’s program as a “shocking failure.”

Councilor Danny Thorpe of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, south-east London, said the lack of organized government support when 700 Afghans arrived in the borough in August was “unforgivable.”

“This was one of the most shocking failures of government that I ever encountered,” he added.

He also accused government officials of not providing adequate support or sending enough officials when hundreds of Afghans were initially put up in hotels in his borough during their 10-day COVID quarantine.

The government housed about 10,000 Afghan refugees in quarantine hotels across the country, with nothing but the bags they were allowed to carry on to the evacuation flights.

Thorpe said, “There was a huge mismatch between the rhetoric of senior government politicians and their actions to support those people.”

Back in August, a five-year-old Afghan refugee fell to his death from a hotel window, soon after arriving in the country.

The local council also raised concern over the suitability of hotels for holding Afghan refugees.

After the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan, the UK managed to evacuate about 15,000 people, but left many thousands behind, who had aided the British forces in the war-torn country.

The Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August, as the United States was in the middle of a chaotic troop withdrawal from the country.

The humiliation of the Taliban takeover after a 20-year war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives caused widespread criticism of British authorities.

Britain lost 457 armed forces personnel in Afghanistan, accounting for 13 percent of the US-led military coalition's 3,500 fatalities since 2001.


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