Afghans refugees living in ‘nightmare’ around...
Far from an enthusiastic welcome, charities have accused ministers of giving thousands of Afghans who fled to Britain the “cold shoulder”, with many stuck in hotels often without proper support while their wait continues for permanent housing. The Home Office said in February 2022, that 4,000 Afghans brought to the UK since the last summer had been moved into settled homes – leaving 12,000 still in hotel accommodation.
The temporary nature of these Afghans’ situation had made it difficult to integrate into the local community and left them feeling isolated. “The GP says they will support us initially, but they know we are temporary guests here, so they don’t want to waste their resources. It’s the same with schools and local councils – they see us as temporary,” Said one Afghan father. “It’s a nightmare. The rooms are very tiny for whole families. They have independently approached the Home Office, telling them that they can try to find their own home to move into, but they are told that if they do that they will be thrown out of the scheme,” he added. “Nobody knows when their turn is up, and the Home Office has said it can be up to a year. People feel trapped.”
The Independent reported that homes procured by local authorities intended to house Afghans had been sitting empty for weeks because the Home Office had not filled them, and that some councils were considering withdrawing houses from the programme because of the delays.
In Indonesia, the majority of Afghan refugees are said to be from the Hazara minority and they have been protesting never-ending wait times for resettlement, with one man setting himself on fire in December 2021. More than half of the refugees in Indonesia, who are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), are from Afghanistan. They have been demanding an early settlement to their pleas for asylum and resettlement. Dozens of Afghans have been protesting outside the headquarters of the UN refugee and migration agencies in several cities across Indonesia. In recent years, at least 14 Afghan refugees have committed suicide in the country, while six others attempted suicide.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention, which means asylum-seekers are not officially recognised by the government. They are not allowed to work, and do not have access to public schools or hospitals. While some of them are held in immigration detention centres, others may get places in housing funded by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) or live in makeshift shelters.
In Australia, the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, has been urged by a delegation of faith groups, veterans’ advocates and members of the Afghan diaspora to heed Australia’s “moral obligation” to Afghan nationals fleeing the Taliban by ensuring resettlement places are on top of the existing humanitarian intake. In addition to the request to increase the overall humanitarian intake, the group also argued it was “cruel” for the government to leave Afghan nationals in limbo on temporary protection visas because they had previously arrived in Australia by boat.
Hawke announced last month the government would provide “at least 15,000 places for Afghan nationals, through our humanitarian and family visa program over four years”. But one of nine members in Monday’s delegation and the executive director of Micah Australia, said the announcement was “mean and tricky” because it did not result in any additional places.
Glen Kolomeitz, a director at GAP Veteran & Legal Services, said he regularly received calls from Australian veterans of the Afghanistan war asking why Australia was not doing more to help the Afghan people. “We owe moral obligation, not just to Afghans who worked for Australian agencies, but to the Afghan people more broadly,” he added.
In November 2020, nine months before the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, the United Nations revealed that 90 percent of the world's Afghan refugees were hosted by Iran and Pakistan. After that came India, with more than 15,600 Afghan refugees, and Indonesia, with more than 7,600, about 85 percent of them from the Shi’ite Hazara minority. The ethnic group was brutally repressed during the Taliban’s first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.
The UNHCR has also noted that the situation is complicated by the global coronavirus pandemic, which according to the UNHCR led 160 countries to close their borders in 2020, of which nearly 100 made no exemptions for migrants or asylum-seekers.