Afghans who evacuated to the UK told the Guardian they felt like prisoners after being locked up in more quarantine than necessary.
Thousands of officials and soldiers who helped NATO forces were driven from Kabul after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in late August. Since Afghanistan is on the travel red list, they had to quarantine for 10 days at a hotel upon arrival.
However, some said they had not heard of the bridging accommodation they had promised as part of the government resettlement plan, had little to no fresh air, and had not heard of when they could leave during their stay. Mental health deteriorated.
Former Afghan justice minister Hasib Nooralam has been imprisoned for 20 days at the Park Plaza Hotel near Waterloo, London. We are prisoners in here, but prisoners can go outside for an hour or two a day, he said. Only 15 minutes of going out in 24 hours were allowed. There are many children in this hotel too. People are weeping and crying.
He said he had not received any information from the Ministry of the Interior. When he asked if he could go shopping or taking a walk at the hotel, he said no. No one knows what is going on. Perhaps they will keep us here for a month, maybe two. Who knows?
A second refugee from Afghanistan said he stayed in a hotel for 20 days and requested anonymity. I can’t explain it, they said. The anxiety is that no one asks what will happen next. The Department of Home Affairs asked for the phone number of someone to contact, but they didn’t give it to them. The system is broken.
We can’t even open the windows for fresh air kids, many people who don’t speak English, they can’t complain about anything. No one will hear their voices.
Another man, who spent 17 days at a hotel near Heathrow with his pregnant wife and children, said he knew others who had served as police in Afghanistan longer. “Our mental state is not good at all,” he said.
The Afghan interpreter, who served for many years in the British Army, said the Swindon Hotel, where he, his wife and two young children, was like being in prison.
Even after completing self-quarantine four days ago, whenever I wanted to go for a walk, I had to make a reservation at the hotel front desk, and I waited several hours for the security team to guide me to the parking lot, and then I was given 20 minutes to be guided again. Go to their room and will not be allowed again until the next day.
No one can tell us how long we will be here or what will happen after that, he said. No phone number to ring when contacting authorities or texting Arap’s email address. [the Afghan relocations and assistance policy] They won’t respond for weeks.
Dr Andrew Kidd OBE, one of 60 former civil servants who managed the British aid program in Afghanistan for three years, said he was one of 60 people who lobbied the government to help refugees. Afghan colleagues who have served the UK with their professionalism and dedication are locked up in a quarantine hotel with their families even after quarantine is over.
It is questioning their human rights and affecting their mental well-being. This does not seem to be the warm welcome that Interior Minister Pretty Patel promised through surgery.
Carolyn Webster, a former Conservative parliamentary candidate and now independent Bridgend City Councilor, is trying to communicate the plight with the British government and organize a collection for Afghan people who are locked up in British hotels after quarantine.
She said the extra days people stay locked up don’t seem like much, but especially when there’s no contact.
They understand the importance of quarantine and are happy to do it. But there is a lack of communication. If it is no longer quarantined, please let it out. All the families I’ve dated want to be properly integrated into the UK so they can learn about our culture and participate in it. But they are not given such an opportunity.
Last week, I was told that Afghans staying in quarantined hotels could stay for free until the Ministry of Interior and lodging can be arranged for you.
This will be another hotel and I wrote to them and told the Guardian what they saw while trying to confirm permanent accommodation. However, if you decide to stay in an isolation facility, you must continue to ask them to comply with Covid security measures. This is for safety to prevent the spread of infection.
The government contacted for comment. On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced that local authorities would receive $20 million to support resettlement of people evacuated from Afghanistan, but only about 100 parliaments admitted that they had offered the expropriation. We will urge all congresses across the country to contribute to this national effort, the department said.
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