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Kingdom helps efforts to securely repatriate Rohingya from Bangladesh: Saudi envoy


LONDON: A former Afghan Air Force pilot who served alongside British forces and fled the Taliban remains stuck living in a hotel a month after his asylum application to remain in the UK was approved, The Independent reported on Thursday.

The pilot, whose case caused uproar after he was threatened with deportation to Rwanda for crossing the English Channel illegally, despite being labeled a “hero” and “patriot” by coalition allies, is struggling to find permanent accommodation as he is forced to rely on a government financial handout called universal credit, which cannot cover most rents.

Until he finds accommodation, he will be unable to repatriate his family who are hiding in Afghanistan. Local councils are currently prioritizing families over single migrants due to shortages.

Without permanent housing, he fears he will soon become homeless, with the UK Home Office ramping up efforts to clear a backlog of asylum applications, and seeking to reduce the amount of time people whose applications are approved are allowed to remain in government-funded accommodation — with some evicted in as few as seven days.

The pilot has yet to receive a notice of eviction, which he also needs to present to a local authority to apply for social housing.

He told The Independent: “I’m trying a lot to find a shared house or flat but it is very, very difficult to find it. I’m still waiting for my leaving (eviction) letter from the Home Office. I haven’t received it yet but if the situation is continuing like this maybe I will become homeless.”

He added: “I can work and I can study. I will try and search to see if I can use my pilot training here in the UK. I’m thinking about how can I get the duty that I had in Afghanistan in aviation. If I could get a job, I could stand on my own feet soon.”

He said: “I have a serious problem, which is an economic problem. If I can get some income, it will be very easy for me. There are lots of aviation academies, and if I can pay for them, I can get my licence and it would not be difficult. But right now, it is difficult because of my economic situation. I will try and find out how I can manage.

“If I don’t have success I will try and study another field that could lead to a job. This is my plan.”

Steve Smith, CEO of refugee charity Care4Calais, which worked with the pilot to have his asylum application approved, said: “The euphoria of being granted status is, sadly, quickly replaced with the stresses and challenges of finding accommodation and work or training. Today, with the recent surge in asylum grants, those challenges are greater than they have been in the last few decades.”

Smith added: “Family reunification is an expensive process, and getting out of Afghanistan is a logistical nightmare. More needs to be done to assist Afghan families like the pilot’s.

“The government has accepted his service alongside our troops has placed his life at risk in Afghanistan. But that risk equally applies to his family. We can’t abandon them to a life of fear under the Taliban regime.”

A Home Office spokesperson told The Independent: “We encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision, whether that is leaving the UK following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in the UK following a grant. We provide support for refugees to access jobs, benefits and housing.”

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