There are over 21,000 Afghan refugees who have been resettled in the UK, most as part of the military evacuation in August 2021 following the seizure of power by the Taliban.
Just under 10,000 Afghan refugees are still living in hotels, of which around a half are children. This was designed to be a temporary solution.
We know that refugees face many barriers to finding meaningful employment. However, we are concerned about the additional barriers that Afghans who are living in hotels are facing, including:
- Insecurity: uncertainty about how long they will be in hotels or if they will be relocated without notice.
- Trauma, mental health and isolation: the sudden nature of the evacuation has traumatised many refugees, and mental health problems are exacerbated by the hotel environment, including a lack of privacy and overcrowding. The pressure of supporting large families here as well as back home contributes to mental health strain for the (almost always male) breadwinner. Many women are isolated, as they do not leave the hotel or visit communal areas, have lower levels of English, and are not expected to enter the workplace.
- Inadequate accommodation: the location of some hotels (e.g. in city centres) prevents integration with wider communities and community services. Hotels that we’ve visited are run down and in disrepair, and not suitable for accommodating large families. Security is also an issue and causes concerns around possessions and safety of families.
A stable job for an unstable situation
We will be honest and say that it has been challenging at points to support refugees who are living in hotels. It’s taken us time to understand the scope and type of support that we are best-placed to provide, and to find ways to support people whose lives are still unstable.
However, we think we’ve found a positive solution.
We have a contact who has a military background. After speaking with him we identified the security industry as a potential route for Afghans with experience working in the military. The challenge was that most jobs in the security industry require an SIA (Security Industry Authority) qualification and license.
In May 2022, we piloted paying for a small group of Afghans in bridging hotels in London to attend SIA training so that they could receive the qualification, apply for a license and, thereafter, jobs.
Underlining the instability of their situations, one client was moved out of the hotel and relocated to Oxford at short notice. However, we supported him so that he was able to complete the training.
Of those that attended the training, all passed the course and are now being supported to apply for licenses.
In our conversations with refugees, they have highlighted the benefits of the SIA license as leading to jobs that could be done anywhere in the UK, which is particularly important when trying to find stability in an unstable situation.
One father told us he thought security would be an ‘easy job’ that would allow him to focus on his responsibilities outside of work, and settling his family into the UK.
We’re delighted to say that we’re now partnering with a local authority in London to expand our pilot and support even more refugees to find meaningful employment.
If you are interested in partnering with us on this, or similar initiatives, please contact [email protected]