Concerns over 200-plus Afghan refugees stuck for eight months in West Northamptonshire hotels with more still arriving

Lib Dem councillor vows to ‘keep plugging away after questions go unanswered

Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 2:38 pm

Councillors and ministers appear to have no plans over what to do with more than 200 Afghan refugees still living in hotels in West Northamptonshire eight months after fleeing their war-torn country.

The area has taken in nearly THREE TIMES the original number of refugees, including some transferring from other areas of the UK.

But mostly larger families remain stuck because of a shortage of suitable accomodation with more still arriving — and the council is giving no indication of how the problem will be solved.

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Brixworth councillor Jonathan Harris is concerned about the hundreds of Afghan refugees stuck living in local hotels

One Liberal Democrat councillor who raised the issue at a cabinet meeting earlier this month described the situation as “unsatisfactory and untenable.”

Brixworth’s Jonathan Harris said: “There doesn't seem to be a plan.

"Northampton is a town of sanctuary and our view is that should be applicable to the whole of West Northamptonshire.

"On the Afghans’ issue, I didn't get an answer and I'm going to keep plugging away.

“These families have been in situ in hotels for around seven to eight months. It's not a tenable situation in the long term and the sooner we can get an answer about what actually the plan is the better."

Two bridging hotels went live in West Northamptonshire in September 2021 as part of the Government’s Afghan resettlement scheme after Home Office officials asked the area to accommodate up to 140 refugees.

But a council report revealed 379 refugees have since arrived at the hotels with 132 having since moved out.

Council leader Jonathan Nunn said: “We've become an exemplar for the hotels we've been running and that's a reason why we've seen resettlers transfer into West Northamptonshire hotels."

But cabinet member, Councillor David Smith, failed to answer questions about any plans to help the remaining 200-plus and a council spokesman insisted it was a matter for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Cllr Smith said: "We are continuing to get arrivals and we are a victim of our own success as far as that's concerned."

A council spokesman said resettlers moved to West Northamptonshire for a “variety of reasons” including them “having links with people in the area” adding that the number of Afghans still in hotels and numbers of new arrivals was a matter for the government.

The Home Office did not respond to requests from this newspaper to clarify the situation.

A Lib Dem motion on the Ukraine and the wider refugee crisis was only voted through by the Tory-controlled council last week after it was watered down to avoid committing cash to create a help centre for all refugees, not just those on the Afghan or Ukraine schemes.

Cllr Nunn told the meeting: "We are completely committed to this but we have to be cautious about coming up with a figure for we have no defined need.

"The opportunity for this is coming which will help us define what the extent of the refugee situation is beyond the high-profile Afghans and Ukrainians."