South Staffordshire Council has been notified by the Home Office that two hotels in the district have been made available for immediate use by Asylum Seekers from 10th November 2022.
The increase in dangerous small boat crossings is causing an unprecedented strain on the asylum system, consequently the Home Office are having to acquire hotels through contracted providers at very short notice. Given the immediate challenges at the Manston facility in Kent, they have also in recent days on occasion needed to acquire additional hotels and individual hotel rooms on a night-by-night basis. This is an additional, temporary measure given the imperative to move a significant number of people on from Manston at pace.
South Staffordshire Council and local partners were not consulted prior to the use of these hotels by the Home Office, due to the emergency situation in the Manston asylum processing centre and the urgent need to find accommodation elsewhere. This is happening across the country, and not just in South Staffordshire, as the Government tries to uphold its obligations under the Refugee Convention and continues to process claims for both individuals and families awaiting a decision on their asylum claim at this current time.
The Home Office has indicated that the use of these hotels will be short term accommodation until more suitable accommodation can be found, but they are unable to give a timescale due to the continuing pressures in the asylum system.
SERCO are the Home Office appointed contractors for asylum dispersal and are responsible for ensuring the health, wellbeing, safety and welfare of asylum seekers. This includes providing food and other basic provisions where this is required. This is not a local authority or NHS responsibility. SERCO are providing 24-hour onsite support to these residents.
Council officers are working closely with partner organisations, including the County Council, Health, Fire and the Police to ensure we can address any issues should they arise.
How to ask a question?
We know you will have a lot of questions about this situation.
We've hopefully answered many questions here. But we may not have covered everything, so we welcome your questions and comments.
Submit your question/comments to us at email@example.com
We'll then review all questions and feedback and update these frequently asked questions. We'll also use the information you share with us in conversations with the Home Office, their contractors managing the hotel and local partners such as police and health services.
What is an asylum seeker?
An asylum seeker is someone who has left their country, often suddenly, because they are faced with persecution, war or violence and cannot get protection there.
Why are they coming here?
They have fled war-torn countries, were trafficked to the UK or faced persecution and violence. They have temporary accommodation until their asylum request has been processed.
Where are the asylum seekers being placed.
The Home Office are procuring hotels across the country as temporary accommodation. The decision to house asylum seekers is made by the Home Office and is a commercial agreement with the hotel.
Are Councils asked if the hotels can be used for this?
No, the Home Office makes the decision on which properties are used. Councils are usually informed of the intention to use a hotel but are not part of the decision-making process. However, due to the current pressures on the asylum system, the Home Office have also in recent days on occasion needed to acquire additional hotels and individual hotel rooms on a night-by-night basis without informing the Council.
Do Councils receive any funding for this?
No, the council do not receiving any funding to support those staying at a hotel.
Are most asylum seekers male?
No, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), women and girls make up about half of any asylum seeking, refugee or internally displaced population. However, women and children may be left in refugee camps in neighbouring countries while the men leave the camp to take the risky and often deadly trip to another country. Families that travel together in a big group have a harder time with the logistics. Women and children are also at much higher risk of sexual abuse, violence and exploitation by traffickers and organised criminal gangs on the route. Therefore, families may stay behind and wait until the men have applied for asylum and the rest of their family will then follow in a much safer way. This is often facilitated by the British Red Cross.
How long have the asylum seekers been in the country and where have they come from?
The number of refugees and people seeking asylum goes up and down, depending on what is happening in the world. Conflict in several countries has swelled recent figures. The Home Office does not comment on individual cases. It is worth noting that only 0.2 per cent of the population are refugees or asylum seekers. Most asylum seekers flee over their nearest border, where they are likely to live in camps. This can be seen in the case of Syria. Of the 6.7 million Syrian refugees globally, 4.6 million are being hosted by its neighbours – Turkey and Lebanon. Asylum seekers come from many parts of the world. Government statistics suggest that for the year ending September 2021 highest numbers came from Iran, Eritrea, Albania, Iraq and Syria. The nationality of those residing at the hotel will therefore vary.
Why don't asylum seekers stay in the first safe country?
Most do. 80% of the world's asylum seekers and refugees are living in countries neighbouring their country of origin. The number one reason that asylum seekers give for continuing their journey to the UK is that they have family ties here. This covers over 50% of cases. Other factors that people will take into account are more practical, for example, if you speak the language, you have more chance of being able to find a job and you can navigate everyday tasks like understanding public transport or going shopping. It is also not uncommon for asylum seekers to also state their belief that the UK is a safe, tolerant and democratic country and refer to previous links between their own country and the UK. There is no legal requirement for an asylum seeker to make their claim in any particular country.
What about bogus/illegal asylum seekers?
There is no such thing as an ‘illegal' or ‘bogus' asylum seeker. Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim. This is a legal process.
Can asylum seekers claim welfare benefits?
No, asylum seekers are not able to claim welfare benefits, nor are they allowed to work. Asylum seekers in the hotel receive food and accommodation and receive around £8 per week.
Will people have access to local health services?
Yes, they will be able to access local health services in the same way anyone visiting an area on a temporary basis can.
Update 17 January 2023
What is being done to ensure the behaviour of those at the hotel?
People living at the hotel are not prisoners.
Local police are aware that the hotel is being used to accommodate asylum seekers and is working closely with us and other partners. The police will deal with any reports or concerns as they would normally do so. Although it is important to note there have been very few reports of any issues to local police.
We know rumours and comments on social media have caused tensions and concerns for the safety of those staying at the hotel, the staff at the hotel and the wider community. We would urge people to not spread rumours and report any personal experiences of anti-social behaviour to local police on 101 or Report antisocial behaviour | Staffordshire Police
If you have any question about the provision of the hotel, please contact the Home Office by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 020 7035 4848.
For those living at the hotel, what are the reasons for people seeking asylum?
The Home Office does not comment on individual cases. However, information on the government's website says: To be eligible for asylum, people must have left their country and be unable to go back because of fear of persecution.
This persecution must be because of:
- political opinion
- anything else that puts the person at risk because of the social, cultural, religious, or political situation in their country, for example, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?
Asylum seekers - When someone flees their own country, for example due to war, they can claim asylum as they arrive in another country. An asylum seeker will then have their claim for asylum assessed (which can be a lengthy process, during which they have limited rights). Once submitted, an asylum request will have one of three outcomes:
- Full refugee status (indefinite leave to remain).
- Temporary leave to remain for between 1-5 years
- A refusal, applicants may appeal against a refusal and can remain in the UK whilst appealing.
If the appeal is unsuccessful they must return to their home country. Until they receive a decision as to whether or not they are a refugee, they are known as an asylum seeker.
The 1951 Refugee Convention guarantees anyone the right to apply for asylum in another country that has also signed the Convention. It also guarantees that they can remain there until their claim has been processed.
Refugees - In the UK, refugees are people who have been granted asylum and have the right to stay in the UK.
How are these people being classed as asylum seekers when they are actually economic illegal migrants?
Where people are claiming asylum from the Home Office, they are recognised as asylum seekers and are waiting for their asylum application to be assessed.
Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim. This is a legal process.
An asylum seeker is someone who has left their country, often suddenly, because they are faced with persecution, war or violence and cannot get protection there. Many have fled war-torn countries, were trafficked to the UK or faced persecution and violence. They have temporary accommodation until their asylum request has been processed.
The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and complex. However, the majority of asylum claims are successful. In the year ending June 2022, 76% of initial decisions resulted in a grant of asylum or other form of protection. (Source, Home Office statistics.) The Home Office are responsible for processing claims for asylum and aim to process those applications within six months.
Where asylum is granted, people are recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention and are allowed to remain in the UK for five years. At the end of five years, subject to the outcome of any review and to the policies in place at the time, people can seek indefinite leave to remain.
Is it the case that several of the asylum seekers have already absconded?
The Home Office does not comment on individual cases.
We do however know that some asylum seekers even in the UK, remain at high risk of human trafficking and modern slavery. The Home Office are working to tackle this illegal activity.
If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking and modern slavery, please report to local police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency. You can also make an anonymous call to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
If those living at the hotel have asylum granted, are they going to be moved into accommodation in South Staffordshire, or do they have a choice of where they want to go in the UK?
Where asylum is granted, people are recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention and are allowed to remain in the UK for five years. Where the Home Office grants asylum, people will be given a Residence Permit; an identity document allowing the person to work, study, access public funds and find a place to live.
There is no rule to say people must settle where they have been staying while seeking asylum.
What is the actual cost of homing those seeking asylum in South Staffordshire?
This is not information we hold.
The Home Office are responsible for those staying at the hotel in South Staffordshire. The council are not receiving any funding to support those staying at the hotel.
Why has South Staffordshire Council decided to publish this information on the website when other councils have not?
Many other local councils have published similar information. We realised local people in South Staffordshire had a lot of questions about those seeking asylum in the area, so developed these frequently asked questions to help explain what is happening and why.
For more information on Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Refugee Action: Facts about refugees - Refugee Action (refugee-action.org.uk)
Migrant Help: Migrant Help (migranthelpuk.org)