Social Justice

Outrage as Home Office tells 400 asylum seekers to leave hotel at week's notice

The Home Office has been accused of breaking its promise to manage hotel evictions in a 'phased way'

The evictions have led to fears of a 'devastating impact' on the asylum seekers. Image: Google Maps

The Home Office has told around 400 asylum seekers to leave a London hotel with a week’s notice, sparking fears of a ‘devastating impact’ on the vulnerable residents.

Asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their claim, living in a hotel in Walthamstow, were told they were being moved to alternative housing on Thursday (18 January.) One resident is being moved as far as Somerset, reported the Waltham Forest Echo.

Waltham Forest Council said it was not given notice of this decision – and that the government had broken a promise to manage hotel closures in a staggered manner.

“This decision runs contrary to the government’s policies saying that it will manage hotel closures in a phased way to ensure that people seeking asylum are dispersed to suitable accommodation. These actions will have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable in our community, including families with children and adults with acute medical needs,” said Grace Williams, leader of Waltham Forest Council.

Rishi Sunak has boasted of hotel closures being a success of the government’s immigration policies. But the rush to clear the legacy asylum backlog and close hotels has led to an explosion in refugee homelessness, as The Big Issue has reported since the Autumn.

Although Waltham Forest Council had previously raised concerns over the safety of residents in the hotels, Williams said there were fears residents were simply being moved on to other unsuitable accommodation.

Although the closures are welcome, they must be done in a way which minimises stress for the residents, said Renae Mann, executive director of services at the Refugee Council.

“Moving children and families without giving them sufficient notice or information about where they will be sent is causing avoidable distress. Many are being uprooted from communities where they have established support and connections and moved far away, which risks interrupting their education, health care and community support,” Mann told The Big Issue.

“There must be an approach to hotel closures and relocation that is centred on the needs and best interests of the children and families affected.”

A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC:  “We are making significant progress with moving asylum seekers out of hotels, which cost UK taxpayers £8.2m a day.

“Accommodation is allocated on a no-choice basis and individuals may be moved to other locations in line with the Allocation of Accommodation guidance.

“We work closely with accommodation providers and local authorities to manage the exit process in a way which limits the impact on partners and individuals alike.”

It added: “We take all necessary considerations into account before any move. Support is also provided to help resettlement in a new area, including regular welfare checks.”

Williams added: “Waltham Forest is an officially recognised Borough of Sanctuary with a proud history of welcoming people fleeing persecution and conflict. The council and the local community are committed to providing the help people seeking asylum need to build their lives here.

“Part of this has been providing direct support to people in hotels in the borough over the last 18 months. The experience that many of these residents have had has been very poor, resulting in us escalating a number of concerns about safeguarding, welfare, and accommodation standards to the Home Office. 

“Last week, the Home Office’s contractors Clearsprings wrote to residents stating that they would be moved by Friday 26 January – without giving us any notice of this decision. We are concerned that vulnerable people will yet again be moved to unsuitable hotels, hostels, or HMOs by the Home Office.

“We remain focused on urgently seeking assurances from the Home Office and Clearsprings about the plan for each individual and family, and providing support on the ground.”

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