The use of hotel accommodation for people seeking asylum almost trebled in 2021 despite pledges from the Home Office to end its use.
By the end of last year 26,380 asylum seekers were living in temporary hotel accommodation according to a report from the Refugee Council entitled: Lives on Hold: The Experiences of People in Hotel Asylum Accommodation.
Although the accommodation is supposed to be temporary, 378 people have been in hotel rooms for a year and 2,826 – for more than six months. In the last three months of 2021 the Home Office was using 207 hotels to house asylum seekers. In the last quarter of 2019 just 24 hotels were being used.
The number of families housed in single hotel rooms has increased by nearly a third (27%) in 2021 including over 2,500 children – 10% of the hotel population, according to freedom of information data obtained by the Refugee Council from the Home Office.
Workers for the charity identified widespread depression along with suicidal thoughts among both adults and children, and found that asylum seekers have inadequate access to clothing, footwear and other basic essentials such as painkillers, mobile phones and internet data.
Many living in this accommodation have limited access to the legal and health services they need and are cut off from local communities and support networks.
An increase in far-right harassment of asylum seekers at hotels is highlighted in the report along with some people being trafficked from hotels.
The Refugee Council has accused the Home Office of having no clear plan for improving the issue.
The report includes 13 key recommendations which include ensuring people are not trapped in hotels for long periods but moved into dispersal accommodation within 35 days, and ensuring that while people are in hotels they have early access to quality legal advice, as well as having basic essentials like clothing, nutritious food and medicine.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, 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.”
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.”