Afghan mother-of-two says living in London hotel ‘like a prison’ amid affordable housing shortage

A single mother of two who fled Afghanistan when Kabul fell to the Taliban says living in a Watford hotel for six months was “like a prison”. Former television news

anchor Zahra Shaheer is one of thousands of Afghan refugees who have lived in hotels for months on end while waiting for permanent accommodation. “When you say to someone,

‘I lived in a hotel for six months’ maybe they might think ‘Wow [what a] luxury’, but it’s not the same,” Zahra told the Standard. “It’s like a prison for families who are

refugees and who come to a new place.” While Zahra was eventually provided a home in Buckinghamshire with her two children, there are still 9,242 Afghan refugees living in

63 hotels across the UK, according to the latest Home Office figures. Around half are children. In London, wait times are exacerbated by a “severe affordable housing

shortage” that “continues to be a major hindrance to the resettlement programme”, London Councils executive member for communities Councillor Claire Holland said. The Home

Office has not disclosed how many Afghan refugees are living in hotels in the capital, but it is working with more than 350 local authorities to find long-term accommodation

across the UK. More than 2,000 properties are required so families can move out of hotels and into homes. London Metropolitan University Professor Louise Ryan, who

researched the experience of Afghan migrants in London, said some are “starting to lose hope” and feel “they’ve been forgotten”. “They just felt very powerless, they had no

control over their futures,” she told the Standard.