Private firms are making increased profits from housing asylum seekers. An agency used by the Home Office has increased profits from £2.1m to £6.3m in just 12 months.
395 hotels are being used to house asylum seekers arriving in the UK to accommodate the increasing arrivals, with the Home Office admitting the asylum system is under “incredible strain”. The number of asylum claims reached a high of 74,751 last year. This figure is nearly the highest in 20 years, according to Home Office data, where applications reached 84,132 in 2002.
Small boat arrival asylum applications are also at record levels. They accounted for 45% of asylum applications in 2022. The backlog has now reached approximately 166,000 people.
According to a government source, it is costing the government more than £6m a day to house over 51,000 asylum seekers in the hotels.
Due to unavailability of alternative accommodation, hotels are frequently taken over by the government, and usually on short notice of only a few days. This has meant many existing bookings at some hotels have been cancelled at short notice, including business conferences and wedding. Florist Fredricka Reyolds lost out on regular work for a hotel in Kegsworth when asylum seekers were moved in.
Three large firms partake in the contracts to run the hotels.
Serco provide around 109 hotels in England, based on a High Court judgement from December 2022. Alongside the hotels, Serco also provide other services on the government’s behalf. In their 2022 annual report, Serco reference “growth” in their immigration work.
As revealed by court documents, Mears Group runs 80 hotels and their annual report showed the company increased their annual revenue by 22% in 2021, which is attributed largely to its work finding hotels to put up asylum seekers.
In 2021, Calder Conferences, a smaller firm, received £20.6m in payment from the Home Office to book hotels. In 2022, the figure had increased to £97m. Their work is claimed to be finding bridging hotels for Afghan refugees who had arrived in the UK after the Taliban takeover in 2021.
The choice of hotels used appear to be indiscriminate and range from hotels at airports, country houses, and the seaside. Some town may have more than one asylum hotel, like Swindon, while others have none at all.
Communities have been angry about the lack of consultation prior to moving asylum seekers in. There have been protests like those at Knowsley.
When councils were asked how many hotels were being used to house asylum seekers and how many people were living there, the majority said there were no hotels or asylum seekers in the area or referred questioning on to the Home Office. One council refused the request because they thought it could lead to “harrassment, threats and physical or mental harm” to asylum seekers.
A spokesperson for the Home Office has said that the government is “making every effort to reduce hotel use.”