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Refugee Council: Lives on hold as number of asylum seekers housed in hotels trebles in 2021 to reach 26,000


Asylum seekers continue to experience significant issues whilst living in hotel accommodation

Date of Publication:

The Refugee Council has published a new report examining the continuing problems with the use of hotels as asylum accommodation.

Report coverYou can download the 43-page report, Lives on hold - Experiences of people living in hotel asylum accommodation, here.

It provides an update to the Refugee Council's short April 2021 report on the increasing use of hotels as contingency accommodation for asylum seekers, particularly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its new and expanded report, the Refugee Council finds the situation has not improved, but rather worsened. The report states: "Unfortunately, a year on, the report findings confirm that people seeking asylum continue to experience the same issues whilst living in hotel accommodation, facing barriers and delays when they raise problems with relevant authorities. It is of huge concern that the scale of the issue is now significantly greater, as the hotel population almost tripled over the course of 2021 with 26,380 people accommodated in hotels across the UK at the end of 2021.

"Following the publication of the Refugee Council's previous report, the Home Office announced its intention to move people from hotels into dispersal accommodation under 'Operation Oak'. However, over the course of 2021, limited progress was made, as Operation Oak failed to meet its objective of moving people out of hotels by the end of summer 2021. Rather than reducing the overall hotel population, the number of people being accommodated in hotels has continued to increase."

At the end of 2019, less than 1,500 asylum seekers were accommodated in 24 hotels compared to 207 hotels housing over 25,000 asylum seekers just two years later.

Procuring dispersal accommodation to use instead of hotels has been a substantial challenge for the Home Office and its subcontractors. The Refugee Council says that instead of planning and procuring dispersal places so that asylum seekers can be housed in the community, the Home Office is in crisis mode and struggles to see 'the face behind the case' when it comes to people in the asylum system.

Hotels no longer operate like initial asylum accommodation, but now resemble dispersal and people stay in them for much longer than intended, the report adds.

On the issues asylum seekers face living in hotels for long periods, the report notes: "The Refugee Council is deeply concerned to observe the impact that providing asylum support in hotel accommodation has on individuals, families and children. By gathering information and evidence through the Refugee Council's therapeutic work with people, staff have seen an increase in poor mental health as well as suicide ideation, including amongst children. It is unacceptable that people have to live in conditions which are dehumanising and directly cause their health and well-being to deteriorate, and that they don't even have access to clothing or appropriate footwear. The safety of people housed in hotels is an issue of huge concern. On one hand, an increase in far-right activity and harassment has been on a rise, on the other, there are reports of people who went missing from hotels and are suspected to have been trafficked."

A hotel co-ordinator at the Refugee Council added: "Living in the hotels is mentally and emotionally exhausting for all involved. Often suffering from physical and social isolation, clients struggle to integrate into their local communities due to a lack of access to local opportunities, clothing, public transport, mental health support and English classes."

The majority of asylum seekers in hotels are on section 95 support and receive just £8.24 per week per person to meet the cost for buying items to meet needs related to clothes, non-prescription medicines and travel.

The Refugee Council said: "Our calls to Home Office are clear. First and foremost, it must stop failing to meet its own standards by keeping people crammed in hotel rooms for longer than 35 days. People must be moved into dispersal accommodation within 35 days. The Home Office must introduce a clear and transparent plan for transferring people out of hotels and housing them in communities. And the Home Office has to work more closely and meaningfully with its key stakeholders so that they are no longer left in the dark when a new hotel opens and prevented from supporting people as best they can."