Afghan interpreter and wife who fled Kabul airport bombing now live with newborn baby in UK quarantine hotel
An Afghan interpreter and his wife who narrowly escaped the suicide bombing at Kabul airport welcomed their new baby while they were still living in their quarantine hotel.
Six weeks after arriving in the UK, Mansour Wafa’s wife Tamana gave birth to a baby girl weighing 6 pounds 4 ounces on October 5. They named her Mahtab, which means moon.
But unlike the many new parents who make the nervous journey from the hospital to the comforts of home or even the newly decorated nurseries, the family – including big sister Tabasome, two – are now back in their hotel room. Radisson Blu from Manchester Airport where they were quarantined. when they arrived from Afghanistan as refugees over a month ago.
The delighted new daddy Mr Wafa, 29, said I “It feels good” to have her new daughter delivered safely, but the family still relies on the kindness of strangers and donations to make it through.
“The baby is fine and Tamana is fine. We are back in our same room. Tamana cannot walk right now, so she is resting in bed, ”he said.
“The hospital gave us a full bag of things for the baby, along with shampoo, clothes and shoes.
“We have a stroller, the hotel manager bought it for me because local charities brought stuff. Now I have to register him and get his birth certificate.
A second family who escaped Kabul on the same flight as the Wafa are also living at the Radisson Blu and waiting to be accommodated.
Rizwan Zakhil, 30, his wife Shoghla, 21, daughter Ayesha, four, and son Naved, one, all arrived on August 28. The two families did not know each other in Kabul but are now friends, Rizwan and Shoghla helping by babysitting Tabasome during the baby’s birth.
Both families have completed their 10-day quarantine and are now living in the hotel with other Afghan refugees who are also waiting to be accommodated.
The hotel manager said I it is no longer a quarantine hotel and it is also again open to the public. He could not comment on the number of Afghan refugees currently being accommodated.
Despite being cramped in the hotel room, Mansour says the family is in a better situation than they would be in Afghanistan. Their main issues are slow laundry service, which means they often wash their clothes by hand in the bathroom sink and hang them up to drain – and the sometimes unappetizing food provided.
He said: “We are not disappointed that the baby is in the hotel, of course we hope for a home, but it is not really bad to be in a hotel, most things are here and we do not have to worry and we are safe.
“We have had a very difficult life in Kabul, so living in a hotel is not really difficult for us. “
Both families brought some savings with them, but are now strapped for cash. They have not yet received financial assistance from the government, but say they can survive because their food is provided.
Mansour, who worked as an interpreter for the British Army in Helmand province for a year in 2012 before spending five years as an Afghan Special Forces officer, was able to borrow money from an interpreter friend. who moved to UK earlier. this year and lives nearby.
He said the government had now opened a universal credit account for him and he had to wait until the end of the month until some money was put there. Rizwan said an Interior Ministry employee visited him last week and helped him fill out forms so he could get an account he could access money on.
The Wafa family escaped the desperate crowds outside Kabul airport just three hours before an Isis suicide bombing struck, killing at least 170 people.
Rizwan and his family, who have two rooms next to each other in the same Manchester hotel, were around 100 yards from the bomb when it exploded.
He said: “We were in a ditch in the water outside the airport. A British soldier helped my children and once inside the airport the explosion happened.
“It was a very dangerous day for us. The smell was very bad, everyone was coughing and feeling bad. You could smell the gunpowder.
Happy to be safe in the UK, he hopes the family can access some cash soon, adding: “We don’t even have a pound to buy something for our children. When we go out the kids want different things from me and say ‘let’s go to the store’ and I say ‘I have no money’ it’s very hard.
“But the food is free and the hotel also brings us second-hand clothes.”
The 30-year-old worked as a translator for British troops in Helmand province for a year in 2013. He applied for the Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Policy (PFRA) and received an email him telling to go to Kabul airport to be evacuated.
He said: “My life was in danger in Afghanistan, I supported the British soldiers and if the Taliban caught me they would kill me, that’s why we came here.
“Now my life is safe, I am in the UK and I am very happy. “
The government has called on the military to collect data on all those waiting to be relocated, but has hit back at claims it has lost track of the number of Afghan refugees in hotels.
A spokesperson said: “It is completely incorrect to suggest that we don’t know how many people are in hotels.
“Military personnel are helping the Home Office gather information that will help the government to best match individuals and families in fixed accommodation and support their integration into the UK. “
When asked when Mansour and Rizwan’s family could be housed or when they will receive financial assistance, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: “A major intergovernmental effort is underway to ensure that the Afghans arriving in the UK receive the vital support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue studies and integrate into their local community.
“NHS doctors are on hand in hotels to help and support people. The government works closely with charities and volunteers who can provide groceries, including Moses baskets, strollers, clothing, toys and hygiene products.
“Payment cards are also issued at all of our relay hotels for expenses and we are making sure emergency cash is available for those who need it in the interim.”
Six hotels in the Greater Manchester area are currently accommodating Afghan refugees.
Manchester City Council led I to the Home Office for inquiries about long-term housing, but said they expected most will not stay in the area long-term and will be relocated to other parts of the UK.