Imagine living in a hotel room in a strange country with your partner and children, not knowing how long you’ll be there, not understanding the language and struggling to help your children attend school. That is the situation in which many Afghan families find themselves at the moment in the UK.
Most people will have seen news coverage of the terrible scenes in Kabul Airport as Afghans fled the resurgent Taliban regime in August. You might also know that the UK Government offered resettled refugee status to refugees arriving from Afghanistan, in a similar way to the Syrian Resettlement Programme which was expanded in 2015 in response to the war in Syria.
The aim is of course for all arriving refugees to have proper homes to go to, but the reality of so many arriving in a short period, especially many large families, is that the houses simply aren’t available. So many of these resettled Afghans are currently living in ‘bridging’ hotels while waiting for a proper home.
This is a very challenging situation, especially for those with children. As you know, it is hard to entertain children in a confined space, and in a city hotel there probably isn’t a garden. The families, especially the women and children, are likely to speak little English. The children should have been found school places but will struggle to settle into such a strange new system, and don’t know how long they will be at that school before they move to a more permanent location. They will be provided with basic food and money, but it will not be enough, and won’t account for children’s preferences.
What can we do to help? Bishop Christopher invited Krish Kandiah, who we have worked with on Hong Kong Welcome, to speak to a recent meeting of his senior staff. Krish has now founded Afghan Welcome and you can see his video here. There are a number of things to do to help, but very simply donations of money are welcomed through this site. For some of you, there will be a bridging hotel near your church, and I have been in touch with those churches directly about support that could be offered. There is also a need for other help such as housing and employment, and in the hotels volunteers to provide friendship, support and mentoring. There is a lot of information at Welcome Churches about how to go about providing this support, and our own Croydon Refugee Day Centre is also very experienced in this work. Please do get in touch if you would like to pursue any of this and need some help or contacts.