LONDON: Thousands of asylum seekers living in hotels provided by the UK government fear they could lose their places as hotels aim to offer their rooms to tourists and other travelers.
A letter seen by The Guardian sent to a group of asylum seekers in a central London hotel provided by the Home Office said: “Dear guests, we would like to kindly inform you that your accommodation with us is going to end on 31 January . We advise you to get in touch with your local council for alternative accommodation.”
However, a later note by Clearsprings, the company hired by the Home Office to manage the accommodation, contradicted the first letter sent.
The second letter said: “Under the law [hotel owners] cannot ask you to leave the premises forcefully. Please note that if for any reason your entry card is cancelled and you cannot gain access to your apartment please call the police immediately as this will be classed as an illegal eviction.”
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is supporting asylum seekers in this accommodation who received the letter. They say they are vulnerable and include a mother with a newborn baby and a survivor of domestic violence.
Minnie Rahman, the campaigns director for the JCWI, told The Guardian: “Nobody should have to fear they’ll be kicked out on to the streets on a cold winter’s night.”
She also said the number of eviction threats asylum seekers have been receiving is increasing.
“Our lawyers have been on the phone to young mums and families who’ve been terrified they were going to end up homeless, and unfortunately we know these kinds of threats are widespread,” said Rahman.
“The Home Office needs to be granting people who’ve sought safety here decent, stable accommodation so they can rebuild their lives.”
The Home Office acknowledges that asylum seekers are entitled to long-term accommodation but said that it could not yet locate enough housing for the thousands of asylum seekers currently in hotels.
Visit Britain is predicting a significant boost in tourist numbers this year, and London hotels have reported a surge in tourist bookings as pandemic travel restrictions ease.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has already said it is spending £4.7 million ($6.4 million) a day on hotel accommodation for 12,000 Afghans being resettled in the UK and 25,000 asylum seekers — a total cost of over $2.3 billion per year.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The letters were sent to a small number of people in one accommodation site in error and without approval from the Home Office. We are liaising with Clearsprings to make sure this does not happen again.
“The use of hotels is only ever a short-term solution and we are working with local authorities to find appropriate long-term accommodation across the United Kingdom.”