Big-hearted Brits are offering their spare rooms to Afghans fleeing the Taliban after being moved by the horrific scenes at Kabul Airport.
A charity pairing homeless refugees and asylum seekers with temporary hosts said there had been an unprecedented surge in applications.
Around 300 new hosts have signed up in the past week compared with a handful in normal times.
Lauren Scott, executive director of Refugees At Home, said: “A lot of people are saying they can’t watch what is happening on TV and sit and do nothing.
“They are offering to host someone from Afghanistan but we’ve had to tell them we don’t know yet when these people will be here. We’ve got guests waiting from other places and generally people are willing to host them instead.
“With the pandemic, so many spare rooms are now offices or circumstances have changed and we’ve lost hosts, so we need to be recruiting, especially in the big cities.”
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Refugees At Home works with migrants and asylum seekers who are not yet eligible for official support because solicitors have yet to process their claim and they have no right to rent or work.
The charity also steps in when someone achieves refugee status and only has 28 days to leave the accommodation provided.
Since 2015, it has helped 2,423 migrants with a total of 187,740 placement nights.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker invited a refugee called Rasheed into his Surrey home for three weeks last year through the charity.
He said afterwards: “He was a lovely guy, honestly, it was a brilliant experience.
He was great for my boys, they spent a bit of time in his company. He gave them such a great perspective on life.”
Charity co-founder Sara Nathan, whose 26th guest arrives at her London home today, said they would be assessing the flurry of applicants while they waited for Afghan migrants to arrive – but stressed that they need more volunteer social workers and medics.
She said: “Thank goodness the country is full of kind and welcoming people. It’s a small bit of light at a dark time.
“Everyone who has arrived so far has been allowed in by the Government and they are quarantining in hotels, with local authorities supposed to house them.
“The people we help are those who fall through the gaps and have entered informally, so we expect the numbers to rise in time.”
Sara said the scenes in Afghanistan were proving traumatic to watch for current and former guests not just from the country but also those who had escaped war in Syria and Eritrea.
“It is very triggering,” she said. “One of our first guests, who is now a trustee, said he starts shaking any time someone says ‘refugee’ and ‘flee’.
“Many of them still have families back there.
“If there is any silver lining to this awful situation, it will be that the Home Office realises that saying you can’t come in by informal means is not in support of our humanitarian duties.
“You don’t do it lightly. If you have to flee, you have to flee.”
Charities Rooms For Refugees, Housing Justice and NACCOM – The No Accommodation Network – are also coordinating temporary homes, while individuals have offered assistance through local authorities.
Neil Waugh, 76, of Wakefield, West Yorks, announced on Twitter that the spare room in his two-bedroom bungalow is available and was inundated with replies from others inspired to act.
It encouraged Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert’s wife Sian Harries to register their spare room with their local council.
Neil, a retired shipbuilder and political researcher who lives alone, said: “I feel a moral duty to do this.
“When Britain gave its word to help, they gave my word. Unlike this Tory Government, I intend to keep it. There are 650 constituencies in the UK and we’re taking 5,000 people in the next 12 months – that’s only eight per constituency.”
Fellow Wakefield resident Claire Young, 42, has also registered her spare room with the council.
The entrepreneur, who lives with her nine-year-old daughter, said: “My mum said she would take a family in and we would as well.
“I would take a mother and a child. As a parent and a woman myself, it’s so distressing to see. When we read about how the Taliban treat women, it’s like going back in time.
“On the news, a woman said she was going home to Norway and an Afghan lady asked her to take her baby. To feel like you would rather give your baby away than have them stay in the country just says it all to me.
“There is so much racism against refugees, which is so unfair. I think it’s just basic humanity that people want to help in this situation. I haven’t had a response from the council yet but I hope to hear back next week.”
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The Government has launched the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme to accommodate 25,000 people in the short and long-term, with local councils responsible for placing them.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said 5,000 people will be eligible to be resettled during the first year of the scheme, with women and girls given priority.
In Scarborough, North Yorks, the charity Rainbow Centre was inundated with clothes, nappies and toiletries after it asked for items to help 92 Afghan refugees being put up in a local hotel.
People who want to help but lack space in their homes have been urged to assist in other ways, such as donating air miles to Miles For Migrants to fund flights to safety.
Refugees at Home’s Sara Nathan said: “There are lots of very good and small charities doing specific things, like Phone Credit For Migrants, Together With Migrant Children and befriending service Host Nation.”alex