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Christian charity leader says Afghan refugees in UK still need our help as government deadline passes

by Ros Mayfield

As the government’s deadline passes for Afghan refugees in the UK to leave temporary hotel accommodation, the number reporting to local councils as homeless is on the rise.

It’s been almost two years since the Taliban takeover in Kabul, and more than a fifth of Afghans who were previously staying in so-called “bridging hotels” in England and Wales after being resettled here are still without a permanent address, according to the Local Government Association.

Speaking to Premier, Krish Kandiah from the Sanctuary Foundation, said promises made to Afghans who helped British forces during the war have been broken: “These people have left everything they've left behind family, friends, job security, in order to come and serve our military, and then the Taliban wants to kill them. And we offered them sanctuary here, but we kind of haven't really fulfilled that promise at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, when the Taliban were overrunning the country.”

He said although the initial response from the public, including many Christians and churches in the UK, was good, the follow up from the government has been lacking: “When those refugees arrived, there was an incredible response and churches were at the front edge of that, offering really kind help to anyone that needed it buying new clothes and prams and pushchairs offering all sorts of help and support.  But we thought the hotels were going to be a temporary solution while the government stepped up with some proper housing. That hasn't happened. And it's left people in a lot of trouble.”

He believes some churches are leading the way in terms of finding a long-term solution:  “We've seen amazing models of this where local churches have got involved and started building on their property, or councils have built over underutilised land. It just needs some ambition and vision and genuine compassion for our friends from Afghanistan.”

Kandiah praised the efforts of the Veteran Affairs minister: “Full credit to Johnny Mercer, he has gone and visited all the refugee hotels, and that's good. He served in Afghanistan.  No one's gonna be homeless. But will everyone have appropriate housing that's fit to live in for the long term that would allow them to flourish, allow their kids to go to the appropriate schools, and allow them to get a job? That's really in question.”

He added that those fleeing Taliban rule are caught in a no-win situation, especially Christians.  “Afghanistan is a really tough place to live right now. Girls can't go to school. When the winter comes, they're likely to face the same horrific situations that saw people selling their own children or their body parts in order to feed the rest of their family. So it's absolutely terrible situation. We know that Christians and other faith groups are really in danger of persecution… it's a really, really terrible situation.” Krish Kandiah has spent many years inspiring and galvanising local communities to respond to the refugee crisis, and says he hasn’t given up hope for finding an answer:  “There really is a solution here and it's not too late to start.”

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