Many Afghan refugees airlifted to the United Kingdom after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan have asked to return home, growing tired of the British government’s failure to meet their basic needs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a program to resettle Afghan refugees, known as Operation Warm Welcome, in late August. The operation was intended to help Afghan refugees “rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education and integrate into their local communities.”
But a widespread shortage of shelter means that hotels have now been recruited as emergency shelters for 7,000 Afghan refugees, with Interior Ministry officials admitting that some are being held there for months.
One doctor who has been working with the newly arrived Afghans for weeks and requested anonymity told the Guardian that “some patients tell me they want to go home.”
“One man, who was 67, kept saying, ‘I can’t take this anymore. I need to get out of this [hotel] room,'” the physician said.
There are also concerns about health care for those detained in hotels.
One council leader described the government’s program as a “shocking failure.” Councillor Danny Thorpe of the Royal Borough of Greenwich in southeast 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 I have ever witnessed,” he added.
The government placed about 10,000 Afghan refugees in quarantine hotels across the country with nothing but the bags they were allowed to take to evacuation flights.
Thorpe said, “There was a huge disconnect between the rhetoric of high-level government politicians and their actions to support these people.”
Back in August, a five-year-old Afghan refugee fell out of a hotel window shortly after arriving in the country. The council also expressed concern about the suitability of hotels for hosting Afghan refugees.
After the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, Britain managed to evacuate about 15,000 people. However, it left behind many thousands who had helped British forces in the war-torn country.
The Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August as the U.S. was in the midst of a chaotic troop withdrawal from the country.
The humiliation of renewed Taliban rule after a 20-year war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives caused widespread criticism of British authorities.
Britain lost 457 troops in Afghanistan, accounting for 13 percent of the 3,500 U.S.-led military coalition deaths since 2001.