USPUK and More in Common have conducted the first publicly available survey of Afghan refugees living in hotels, to better understand their wants and needs, and how best government and civil society can help them
Over the past two years Britain has welcomed around 25,000 people from Afghanistan, of which 6,575 were still living in temporary “bridging” accommodation at the end of July 2023. Despite the importance of understanding the needs of this cohort, there has been no publicly released survey of Afghan refugees in the UK to date. This is particularly pressing given the notices now given to Afghans to leave their bridging accommodation.
To fill this gap, USPUK and More in Common launched a survey of Afghans living in hotels, to better understand their wants and needs - particularly regarding the transition to permanent accommodation and securing employment. The survey was distributed through existing Afghan networks, and also through Afghan coordinators hired within the hotels to survey those resident there. In total 286 respondents took part in the survey, from 27 unique locations, representing a significant portion (estimated over 10 per cent) of adult Afghans residing in bridging accommodation.
A few key findings emerge from the survey:
Afghans are clearly motivated to move out of hotels and find permanent accommodation. 90 per cent said that they were actively searching for housing, and only 10 per cent said they would rather not move. However, there is a significant lack of knowledge among Afghans about their housing options. Clear majorities say they know "nothing" or "very little" about either social housing or private renting. This has clearly made the process of moving on from hotels much harder and slower.
This cohort of Afghans in bridging accommodation are not homogenous, and have varying needs regarding employment, integration, and language support. A significant number are highly-educated and speak English (around a third) and it is reasonable to assume that they could enter the workforce and integrate into UK life with little difficulty. However, around half are less educated and speak little English, with Afghan women the most likely to lack English langague skills. A ‘one-size fits all’ approach to education and employment support would not be appropriate. Instead, parrallel support programmes should focus on finding suitable employment for that first group, while also accelerating language support for the latter group.
Despite significant delays and problems over the past two years, overall there still exists a large amount of goodwill toward the UK government. Afghans rate their experience with British people highly (8.10 out of 10), with over half giving it a nine or a ten out of ten. They rank their trust in the UK government reasonably high (7.05 out of 10), but are much more critical of local councils (5.87 out of 10), with 52 per cent giving them a trust score of five or less. This is perhaps attributable to local councils being the first line of contact on contentious issues like benefits and housing, even if those decisions were not made by them.
This is the second of two reports by More in Common and USPUK on Welcoming Afghans, focussing on the results of surveying Afghans living in hotels. The first report, on the lessons that can be learned from Operation Warm Welcome, can be found here