LONDON: The UK’s Prince William has told Afghan refugees that he is “frustrated” that British troops were unable to evacuate more people fleeing the Taliban, The Times has reported. During a visit last month to a hotel to meet Afghan refugees who were awaiting rehoming in the UK, he also asked refugees and volunteers why it was taking so long to find permanent homes for the 15,000 Afghans evacuated in August. One of the refugees that the prince met during his visit told The Times: “He said he was frustrated at the withdrawal effort in August. He said he wished we could have brought more people to the UK.” Another said: “He asked us: ‘Why is it taking so long to get into permanent homes?’”
The prince, who is heir to the British throne, also reportedly told refugees that he “wanted the wider country to be more supportive towards refugees.” He was also said to be curious as to the nature of the “new” Taliban, and whether the group had changed. Responding to that question, refugee Hussain Saeedi Samangan, who worked as a political secretary at the British Embassy in Kabul, told him: “No. We know what the Taliban wants, we know they have not changed and that we couldn’t trust them.” Four months since the fall of Kabul and the chaotic NATO evacuations, 4,000 of the 15,000 evacuees taken in by Britain have been placed in long-term accommodation.
The remainder are staying in hotels, which activists have warned are not fit for long-term stays by families who may be struggling with physical or mental health issues.
Local councils, working with the government to rehome the refugees, say they have little housing stock available to offer Afghans — a problem exacerbated by the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers via the English Channel. Many of those Channel arrivals are children, so their rehoming has taken priority over Afghan refugees. The size of Afghan families, averaging seven members, is said to represent an additional hurdle for local authorities, which have few houses available with enough space for larger families. A government spokesperson said: “We helped over 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan, and are proud to have provided homes for more than 4,000 Afghan evacuees, with over 300 local authorities pledging their support so far. “We will continue to work in partnership with local authorities and the private rented sector to secure permanent homes for Afghan families, rightly taking the appropriate time and effort to find families homes that suits their needs and offer long-term security.” – ARAB News