The number of asylum claimants accommodated in hotels has increased to more than 9,000.
Home Office officials told the House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee that 9,500 people have been put up in almost a hundred hotels in around 50 local authority areas.
This number has more than doubled over the summer, since the end of June 2020, when there were 4,427 asylum seekers across 53 full board hotels in the UK. There might have been others accommodated in half-board hotels, hostels or other contingency accommodation (see House of Commons Library report).
Those in hotels form a portion of asylum seekers housed in what is known as ‘initial accommodation’ (hostels, hotels and, from Monday 21 September, a number in disused Army Barracks. According to the latest Home Office staatistics, the number accommodated increased more than five-fold between 2013 and mid-2020 from just under 1,000 to over 5,400 (see latest Home Office asylum support figures).
Figure 1: Total asylum seekers supported under S98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (Home Office statistics).
The significant rise appears to be linked both to the Covid crisis and the fact that the government temporarily ceased ending asylum support for those whose claims have been either granted or refused ‘in order to ensure people were not made homeless during lockdown’.
It also is related to the major increase in illegal Channel crossings since 2018. Over 7,000 have arrived via this unauthorised route since the start of the year (see our Tracker).
98% of those arriving this way in 2020 have claimed asylum and, those deemed destitute are ‘immediately’ placed in what is known as ‘initial accommodation’ under Section 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Generally it is a full-board hostel.
According to the government, around 81% of Channel crossers’ whose asylum claim has been considered this year do not have a credible asylum claim in the UK.
In some locations, this is self-catering and cash is given to the asylum-seeker, in order to buy food (Section 98 factsheet). Between September 2019 and February 2020, on average people spent 26 days in initial accommodation before leaving. However, some stay nearly three months.
Asylum seekers who are deemed to be destitute are then moved into ‘dispersed accommodation’ around the country – mostly in urban areas in more deprived parts of the country – under Section 95 of the same law (failed asylum seekers with children can also be housed under this provision), while failed asylum seekers who are deemed eligible can also be housed under Section 4 (about 5,000 were in the most recent year).
There is some further interesting data below on the trends since 2006 in asylum-related payments and accommodation.
The numbers accommodated have more than doubled since 2012. Accommodating asylum seekers looks set to cost the taxpayer about £400m per year over the next decade, according to the National Audit Office. More recent information, released by the government in September 2020, suggests the total number housed is 60,000.
Figure 2: Numbers in asylum-related accommodation, 2006 – 2020 (includes an unconfirmed portion of failed asylum claimants). Source: Home Office statistics on those supported through payments and housing under sections 95, 98 and 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
Figure 3: Numbers receiving asylum-related payments, 2006 – 2020 (includes an unconfirmed portion of failed asylum claimants). Source: Home Office statistics on those supported through payments and housing under sections 95, 98 and 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
We can see the after-effects of the last asylum crisis in the early 2000s.
The figures for asylum-related accommodation in 2004 were around 44,000 and the figures for payments in the same year were just under 70,000 but they are not complete statistics.
It was this asylum crisis which became a big political issue in the run-up to the 2005 election.
The asylum system is getting more and more overstretched as a backlog of cases increases (harming genuine claimants and wasting taxpayer money) and as immigration enforcement atrophies.