Some of the refugees and asylum seekers stuck in Midlands hotels for months are engineers, aspiring security guards and footballers. BirminghamLive met some of those living in the Midlands – many of whom have fled war-torn countries and come here for safety.
We have chosen not to identify the hotels to protect the safety of those inside, but they live in ‘full board’ accommodation, run by private firms, on a weekly allowance of just £8. Temporary hotels were set up to manage the dearth of suitable housing, but what was once an interim measure has become a long-term housing issue for the Home Office as the backlog of cases has grown.
Those living inside hotels cannot work, but a highlight has been weekly football training session run by Solihull Moors FC and the council – providing relief from the confines of their rooms. Chatting to us at their football tournament in Solihull, were players from Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan, living in hotels in Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and Walsall.
‘I want to be something’
Kamran Khan , 19, came from Afghanistan alone after Taliban militants swept into Kabul, pushing to takeover Afghanistan. He currently lives in a hotel in the Black Country, and is part of the thriving community at Afghan community and welfare centre in Walsall.
“This event is important to me because I was in a hotel for some days, and for me, for my thinking, for my brain, I come out to enjoy with my friends and meet new people.
“I love football, so I play, I come out, it is important for me. We enjoy each other [as a team]. It’s new, it’s new for them, we try our best to be the good team.
“When I was in Afghanistan I like to play football, but there was a lot of problems for me and I couldn’t do my best. So I came here, to stand on my own two feet and whatever I can do I do.”
He added: “To be honest, I want to be a football player, I’ll try my best to be.” Kamran said his favourite football players are Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
And what does he want the next few months to look like? “For the future I want to continue studying and I want to play football also, to do something for me and my people, and also something for the UK, to be something.”
‘I love playing here’
Stood next to Kamran is Mohammed Mansoor, 21, quick on his feet on the pitch. He also fled Afghanistan and arrived 11 months ago. Civil engineering student Mohammed hopes to complete his studies in this country.
“I like Messi and Ronaldo the most.” He added: “I love playing here. It’s great. I am here to carry on my education, to finish studying engineering.” He reflected: “We are like a family, with new people, it is so good.”
The group has been trained by Jordan Murphy, head of Solihull Moors FC Foundation every week since November. Speaking to us on the baking hot astro turf with one eye on his players, Jordan, 27, said: “Do you know what, there’s actually probably five or six players that are very very good and give us a run for our money as we tend to get involved and play.
“A lot of the guys are a really good standard and you can see them improving every day.” Chatting to us off-pitch is Eritrean Nader Mussa, 22, who arrived in Solihull two months ago. “I would like to do anything, I am focussing on college and jobs.
“I [was living] in Saudi Arabia, it was a difficult life. We were treated badly, it is complex” he said. Next we speak to Birmingham City FC fan Noureldin Ali, 20.
‘I want to work as a security guard’
Like many refugees leaving Eritrea, Noueldin escaped the country’s punishing military service, which is said to run indefinitely, and limit basic freedoms. Darting around in the sun in his Blues top, Noureldin said the “team spirit” and beauty of the game keeps him going.
Mohammed Faris, 33, arrived nine months ago and is part of the Bedoon, a stateless Arab minority in Kuwait. He is known to be the spirit lifter of the Solihull cohort, and takes team tactics seriously, working out moves in the break and cheering on his friends.
“My team is very amazing at playing football” he said. “Sometimes they play good sometimes not good because not every day we are playing.
“Training a lot, I like this.” He added: “In the future, I want to work as a security guard for football stadiums.”
Coach Jordan said a feedback session they did with players saw 96% satisfaction with the training. “A lot of the guys you see here today are from the Solihull borough and they’ve slowly built up a group.
“A lot of the stigma around refugees is entirely non-factual. The guys are nothing but polite when they turn up, they’re always punctual, if they’re late they apologise, and they’re really building up their people skills as well as learning our language, so I think this is massively helpful for them.”
You can read a full report from the football tournament here.
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