Churches step up to help Afghan refugees in the UK

Churches around the UK are stepping up to help Afghan refugees living in "bridging hotels", according to the Christian director of Afghan Welcome.

Dr Krish Kandiah was speaking at the Church Leader Emergency Afghanistan Event on Wednesday joined by around 200 church workers and volunteers.

Afghan Welcome is working with the Home Office to provide support for 8,000 Afghan refugees who worked for the British embassy in Kabul or with the British Armed Forces before being evacuated.

Many of the refugees are in large family units.

"Trying to find housing for people in family sizes of eight is really difficult," said Dr Kandiah.

The government has been forced to move Afghan refugees from quarantine hotels to bridging hotels around the UK.

Often 100 refugees will be living in a particular hotel, three quarters of whom are primary school age children.

Dr Kandiah reported "a wonderful moment" at a recent meeting with Home Office officials who asked him: "Where exactly are you guys based?

"I'm saying, we're everywhere. The church is in every town and city and village. In the vicinity of one of these hotels you've got, we can find Christians who can step up and help and everywhere we've asked, that's happened," he said.

He said some churches were already connecting with Afghan families newly arrived in the transition hotels. He expressed the hope that some churches would be able to help provide permanent housing for refugees.

He told Home Office officials that "the Church has been doing this kind of thing for 2,000 years."

"Caring for the vulnerable is in our DNA," he said.

Dr Kandiah urged churches that want to help Afghans in the UK to contact the Welcome Churches network set up in 2018 to support refugees.

Tom Jackson, chief executive of the Love Your Neighbour anti-poverty network of 2,300 churches and organisations, convened the event.

He added, "It's completely natural for us to want to be part of the wider movement of churches to be responding to the Afghan refugee crisis."