Afghan refugees abandoned by the Home Office to fend for themselves in the private rented sector say they could be left homeless because letting agents won’t rent to them. In March, the government began ordering people who had fled Afghanistan in 2021 to vacate the hotels where they have been temporarily housed since arriving in Britain—giving them three months to leave.
Officials said the refugees should start looking for their own places to rent on property search websites such as Zoopla. This broke a promise to find them “settled accommodation”. But several have now told the openDemocracy website they have been given no support to navigate the rental market, and that letting agents stop replying to them after finding out they are refugees.
Asma has been looking for a home for five months, and has enquired about more than 50 properties and managed to secure ten viewings. But all her offers have been rejected. “There was one property where the letting agents kept calling me telling me to make an offer.
“But the moment I gave them a letter from the council that explained we are Afghan refugees and we will be financially supported they completely stopped replying. They wouldn’t even email me to say no,” she said. On another occasion Asma was told by a letting agent that a particular landlord would not accept tenants on benefits—even though Asma also has a job.
Ministers said Afghans would receive “significant support from central and local government at every step” to find places to rent when the government announced it planned to end the use of hotels as temporary accommodation in March. But Asma’s local council says it cannot offer her any help until she secures a rental agreement for her four adult siblings and parents.
“It’s not like I’m just sitting and waiting for someone to come and help me—I’m trying everything possible that I can do from my side,” she said. “Now we’ve been given this short deadline saying you have three months to find a place on your own. It’s not realistic, and it’s really sad. We were promised so many things initially and now we’re not getting those promises fulfilled. It is heartbreaking.”
Police arrested and detained for 13 hours a “royal superfan” who stood near a group of Just Stop Oil protesters at the coronation. Cops handcuffed Alice Chambers as she was eagerly waiting to see the king drive past on his way to Westminster Abbey. Speaking to Sky News, she recalled sitting on the ground among other royal revellers on The Mall when she noticed a “commotion” before several police officers stormed over.
Chambers said she felt distressed as she was taken into custody at Wandsworth police station where she spent the rest of coronation day. It’s not exactly what she had in mind for the event. Much of the press treats this story as an example of repression of the “wrong people”. The real message should be that the police are brutal and all such arrests of protesters—and those thought to be protesters—are wrong.
On Friday police imposed a blanket Section 12 notice on the entirety of London’s roads, banning Just Stop Oil supporters from peaceful processions on any road in the capital. Cops then arrested 13 supporters of Just Stop Oil for marching outside parliament. They were held in police custody for up to 19 hours before being released in the early morning.
The number of people in England waiting to start hospital treatment rose to a new high in March with the backlog at a record 7.3 million patients, new NHS data shows. This is up from 7.2 million in February and is the highest number since records began in August 2007.
Rishi Sunak pledged in January that “lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly”. The latest data shows the government’s target to virtually eliminate the number of people waiting for more than 78 weeks by April was missed by 11,161 people in March.
Bosses pay more than half of food delivery, private-hire driving and data entry workers less than the minimum wage, according to new research. And a quarter of these workers say the nature of their work puts their safety at risk.
In a study led by the University of Bristol, 52 percent of “gig economy workers” reported earning less than the minimum wage, with the average respondent earning £8.97 an hour. That was 53p an hour less than the minimum wage at the time of the research. Many of these workers are falsely regarded as self-employed and don’t have a boss who can be questioned about the low pay breaching regulations.
Of the 510 people questioned, more than three-quarters also reported experiencing work-related insecurity and anxiety. The report found strong support for trade unions, with the majority of respondents willing to join or organise a union.
Britain’s privatised water and sewage companies paid £1.4 billion in dividends in 2022, up from £540 million the previous year. The bosses’ and hanger-ons’ bonanza comes as firms put up bills—despite growing anger over the pollution from sewage discharges. This is because several firms have layered corporate structures with numerous subsidiaries, only one of which—the operating company—is regulated by Ofwat.
Thames Water, the largest water monopoly, paid £37 million of “internal dividends” to its parent company in the year to March 2022. This was an increase from £33 million in the previous 12 months, despite announcing that “external shareholders” had not received dividends for five years.
Its biggest shareholder is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. The second biggest is the Universities Superannuation Scheme—a pension scheme for some workers at British universities. The UCU union should raise questions about whether the scheme is benefiting from tax avoidance.
‘For the first time in more than 50 years, having stuck with the Labour Party through thick and thin, I begin to wonder if I still belong in it’
Chris Mullin, former Labour MP for 23 years and minister under Tory Blair
‘Thankfully, nobody fell asleep during this debate’
Tory Lord Callanan after last week’s examination of the anti‑union laws
‘The government has completely lost control of migration’
Labour leader Keir Starmer
‘The coronation is over, the knives are out’
Prince Andrew complains his brother, the new king, wants him to change palaces
Attendees at the Conservative Democratic Organisation conference chant
Former cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg on plans for extended childcare
Crushing legal fees add to the repressive armoury
Troublemaker looks at the week's news
Troublemaker looks at highlights of the week's news
Troublemaker looks at the week's news