Asylum seekers face homelessness as government shuts refugee hotels

‘Instead of being a moment of celebration, receiving refugee status is, for far too many, currently a ticket to homelessness with the cost being passed on to councils.’


Ministers have been warned that refugees will face homelessness and destitution as the government plans to limit the use of hotels as accommodation. Around 400 hotels in the UK are currently used as accommodation for asylum seekers.

In the House of Commons on October 24, the immigration minister Robert Jenrick, announced that use of hotels to house asylum seekers will be scaled back. For starters, by February 2024, 50 hotels currently used as asylum accommodation that will be returned to their normal use.

“I can inform the House that today the Home Office wrote to local authorities and Members of Parliament to inform them that we will now be exiting the first asylum hotels—hotels in all four nations of the United Kingdom. The first 50 exits will begin in the coming days and will be complete by the end of January, with more tranches to follow shortly,” said Jenrick, adding:

“But we will not stop there: we will continue to deliver on our strategy to stop the boats, and we will be able to exit more hotels. As we exit those hotels, we are putting in place dedicated resources to facilitate the orderly and effective management of the process and limit the impact on local communities.”

In a bid to cut spending, the government has introduced plans to place migrants on barges and in disused military bases instead of hotels, which costs around £8m a day.

Jenrick’s announcement however triggered alarm among local councils, campaigners, and experts, who fear that the closure of refugees could lead to homelessness.

Shaun Davies, chair of the Local Government Association which represents councils in England and Wales, warns that refugees are facing “destitution and street homelessness throughout the winter.”

Authorities are “increasingly concerned over the numbers of asylum seekers presenting as homeless,” he said, adding that the problem “is likely to dramatically increase when Home Office accommodation is withdrawn as a result of the current clearance of the asylum backlog.”

“Given increased demand and the acute shortage of housing available across the country, it will make it extremely challenging for those leaving accommodation to find affordable, long-term accommodation,” said Davies.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, says that in closing hotels, a homelessness crisis developing with newly recognised refugees being given as little as seven days before they are evicted from accommodation.

“Instead of being a moment of celebration, receiving refugee status is, for far too many, currently a ticket to homelessness with the cost being passed on to councils.

“The government should put in place an asylum system that treats people with humanity, giving them a fair hearing in the UK, providing the support they need and a decision in months, not years,” said Solomon.

Marley Morris, associated director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, who leads on the think-tank’s work on migration, fears refugees could be left with nowhere to live.

“While the Home Office might be making progress on clearing the backlog of older asylum claims, there is a major risk that as people are granted status and moved out of hotels they will be left homeless.

“This will also place further pressures on local council homelessness teams, who are already struggling given the UK’s affordable housing crisis,” said Morris.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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