Number of asylum seekers 'languishing' in UK hotels trebles in a year, report finds

Protesters pictured in 2021 outside the Crowne Plaza London Heathrow hotel, London, which is being used as accommodation for asylum seekers. Credit: PA

The number of asylum seekers “languishing” in UK hotels almost trebled in a year with some feeling suicidal due to the lengthy wait and others unable to access "basic essentials", according to a new report.

There were 26,380 migrants living in this type of temporary accommodation at the end of 2021 – compared to 9,421 at the start of the year, Home Office data obtained by the Refugee Council showed.

The responses to freedom of information requests revealed that, as of December, more than 200 hotels were in use and around 10% (about 2,500) of those staying in them were children.

Nearly 3,000 people had been “trapped in unsuitable hotel accommodation” for more than six months and 378 had been there for a year, the charity said.

It warned some migrants were experiencing depression and feeling suicidal while “languishing” in hotels as they awaited a decision on their asylum claim.

The report also highlighted cases of people having “inadequate access to clothing, appropriate footwear and other basic essentials such as paracetamol, mobile phones and the internet”, while many living in hotels have limited access to legal and health services.

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Last month, ITV News revealed how Home Office "red tape" and "disorganisation" have been blamed for ongoing delays in rehoming 12,000 Afghan evacuees stuck in hotels since August. The Home Office said it works "tirelessly to find more housing for Afghan refugees".

In February, it emerged the government was spending £4.7 million a day housing asylum seekers in hotels.

The Refugee Council has now urged the Home Office to act "swiftly" to ensure that asylum seekers are moved out of hotels and either granted refugee status, or support those who must return safely to their native country.

Chief Executive Enver Solomon said: “We are deeply disappointed that despite government promises to move people out of hotels, the numbers of men, women and children trapped in unsuitable hotel accommodation has trebled in a year alone.

“The huge increase in the number of families and vulnerable children stuck between the four walls of a hotel room, from morning till night, is the brutal reality of a broken system.

“Far from the glitzy hotels people may imagine, these are not places anyone would want to stay in for long periods; they are cramped and unsafe."

He warned some stay up to weeks, months and in some cases a year, "stuck in limbo, cut off from society, unable to find work with children often missing out of vital education".

“The impact of this on people who have already endured extreme suffering is huge, damaging their mental health, robbing children of their childhood and leaving people unable to progress with their lives in any meaningful way, or participate in the lives of their communities," he added.

“The government must ensure swift decisions are made so that those who have protection needs can stay in this country as a refugee, and those who do not can be supported to safely return to the country from which they came.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The asylum accommodation system is under enormous pressure due to increase in dangerous small boat crossings, which is why our New Plan for Immigration targets people smugglers and will speed up the removal of those with no right to be here.

"The new fairer asylum dispersal model will also reduce the use of hotels which is costing taxpayers nearly £5 million a day.

“Asylum seekers have access to free health and social care services from point of arrival in the UK – just like British citizens and other permanent residents, to suggest otherwise is wrong.”