Our lives are paused, says Afghan evacuee after 11 months in UK hotel

An Afghan evacuee who was living in a hotel near Leeds for almost a year has described feeling that her family’s “life is on hold” as they await word from the Home Office about permanent accommodation.

In a letter presented to the BBC, Refugee Secretary Lord Harrington appealed to councils to help house the 10,500 Afghans who are currently being housed in hotels across the UK.

Marwa Koofi, 21, fled Kabul, Afghanistan when the city fell to the Taliban last August, and has lived in two hotels for the past 12 months.

She said the year has felt “wasted” and was recently separated from family members after three of them were moved from a hotel in Selby, North Yorkshire, to one near Crawley, West Sussex.

“I’ve spent 11 months in a hotel, I don’t want to stay in a hotel for another 11 months,” Ms Koofi, who will study International Relations at King’s College London in September, told the PA news agency.


Marwa Koofi has recently been moved from a hotel in Selby, North Yorkshire to one near Crawley, West Sussex (Marwa Koofi/PA)

“I wasted a year because my hotel (in Selby) was in a place I couldn’t do anything.

“When I think back on the year, I just see it as a blank – it’s nothing, I didn’t do anything.

“You don’t even have the energy to get out of your bed because you know your day is nothing.

“I feel like our lives are on hold, I just want our lives to be played.”

Ms Koofi was moved to the hotel near Crawley where she is staying with her mother and brother on July 26.

Her sister, 35, is staying at the hotel outside Leeds, while Ms Koofi’s two brothers, aged 23 and 26, have been sent to a hotel in Manchester.

She said being separated from her family has reopened psychological wounds inflicted upon her after leaving her homeland in Afghanistan.

“At Leeds we were all together and there for each other,” she said.


British forces helped evacuate British nationals and Afghans from Kabul (PA)

“We had a wound from leaving Afghanistan and we tried to bandage it together and we were fine and the wound stopped bleeding.

“But after the families separated, it’s like the bandages were removed and they started bleeding.

“The memories of Afghanistan come every day and being alone gives us more time to reflect on what happened to us.”

Ms Koofi said Lord Harrington’s push to house Afghan refugees would only be “a great idea” if it went ahead.

“It’s something Afghans really want, I hope it doesn’t fail,” she said.

“I want to have that feeling after losing my house in Afghanistan and I want to have a house where I feel at home.

“Once you feel like you’re in a house and it’s your own home, and you can tidy your room, set up your house, it might not feel like your own country, but you might feel like it is it your home.”

I don’t feel any more hope.Marwa Koofi

The student added that she and her family had given up hope of finding permanent housing.

“There’s always hope and there’s always a bright light, but I want to feel that word again,” she said.

“I don’t feel it anymore.

“Nobody else – none of my family.”

The PA news agency contacted the Home Office for comment but had not responded at the time of publication. Our lives are paused, says Afghan evacuee after 11 months in UK hotel

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