The Duke of Cambridge privately told Afghan refugees that he was “frustrated” that the UK was unable to evacuate more people fleeing the Taliban, The Times has been told.
During a visit to meet some refugees who resettled in the UK last month, he also asked refugees and volunteers why it was taking so long to find permanent homes for the 15,000 Afghans who were evacuated to the UK in August.
More than 12,000 of them are still living in hotels as the government has struggled to find permanent homes amid a shortage of social housing.
The government has also failed to persuade councils to come forward voluntarily to find homes for the refugees, while other local authorities are at full capacity after housing other asylum seekers.
Britain evacuated 15,000 people in the fortnight after the Taliban seized control of Kabul on August 15, with a further 3,000 being helped to leave since then.
However, evidence submitted to MPs last month from Raphael Marshall, a Foreign Office whistleblower, exposed the widespread failure of senior figures in the government.
The comments have led to questions over how many people were left to die at the hands of the Taliban who could otherwise have been evacuated during Operation Pitting, the military evacuation operation from Afghanistan.
When the duke met some of those who were evacuated during a visit to a hotel in Leeds last month, he appeared to express regret at the failure to evacuate more, although he was careful not to criticise the withdrawal effort as a whole.
One of the refugees that the duke met during his visit told The Times: “He said he was frustrated at the withdrawal effort in August. He said he wished we could have brought more people to the UK.”
Another refugee said: “He asked us: ‘Why is it taking so long to get into permanent homes?’ ”
He reportedly told refugees that he “wanted the wider country to be more supportive towards refugees”.
Kensington Palace has refused to comment.
William also told the refugees that they “couldn’t be more welcome” in the UK.
He was reportedly very interested to find out whether the “new” Taliban had really changed — as they have claimed — since the last time they ran the country in the 1990s.
One refugee, Hussain Saeedi Samangan, 38, who worked as a political secretary at the British embassy in Kabul, told William: “No. We know what the Taliban wants, we know they have not changed and that we couldn’t trust them.”
William told them: “The most important thing is that you are safe now. You have a bright future.”
The hotel visited by William, which cannot be named for security reasons, is housing up to 175 people at any one time as the government continues to search for permanent accommodation.
Four months after the evacuation, only about 3,000 have been moved into permanent homes.
Local authorities have refused to take in refugees for various reasons, including political opposition to social housing but also due to being at full capacity.
The Channel migrant crisis, which saw almost 30,000 migrants reach Britain in small boats last year, has added a strain on housing capacity in the UK. Hundreds of unaccompanied children who have made the journey have had to be prioritised.
Boroughs in Greater Manchester and London that usually offer to take in large numbers of asylum seekers said that they were too full.
Some wards in the north London borough of Camden, for example, reported up to 30 per cent of its population were asylum seekers. At one point, a fifth of the population of the Earls Court ward in Chelsea, west London, was asylum seekers.
Another challenge has been finding homes big enough to accommodate Afghan families who were evacuated to the UK. The average size of an Afghan family evacuated to the UK is seven people, presenting a stumbling block for councils due to the lack of big enough homes.
Last week The Times revealed that thousands of Afghans already in the UK will be transferred to the new refugee scheme that will be launched later this month.
Those evacuated during Operation Pitting were individuals and their families who were in danger of Taliban reprisals due to their association with Britain’s 20-year campaign in Afghanistan as part of the emergency Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap).
Ministers announced a separate Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) to offer refuge to others fleeing the Taliban who were not protected by the Arap scheme.
But Home Office sources said that thousands of family members who were evacuated under the Arap scheme and are already in the UK will be transferred to the new ACRS scheme.
One government insider involved in the plans said this was a clear breach of the government’s original commitment, saying: “This is not what was promised.”
A government spokeswoman said: “We helped over 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan, and are proud to have provided homes for more than 4,000 Afghan evacuees, with over 300 local authorities pledging their support so far.
“We will continue to work in partnership with local authorities and the private rented sector to secure permanent homes for Afghan families, rightly taking the appropriate time and effort to find families homes that suits their needs and offer long-term security.
“The UK is taking a leading role in the international response to supporting at-risk Afghan citizens. The Arap scheme has provided over 7,000 people with security in the UK so far, while the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme will open soon, giving up to 20,000 people at risk a new life in the UK.”