Refugee Council
Lives on Hold

A year ago, the Refugee Council published a research report, I sat watching life go by my window for so long, which looked into the experiences of people seeking asylum living in hotel accommodation in England. The report identified a range of problems and challenges as a result of insufficient support provided in asylum hotels. It made ten recommendations to the Home Office to improve the situation for people in hotels. Additionally, the Refugee Council had meetings with the Department to discuss the implementation of those recommendations.

This report provides an update on the situation for people living in hotels, with new information and
evidence. It does not look at the experiences of unaccompanied children, as there are separate specific issues that relate to the use of hotels which impact them.

Unfortunately, a year on, the report findings confirm that people seeking asylum continue to experience the same issues whilst living in hotel accommodation, facing barriers and delays when
they raise problems with relevant authorities. It is of huge concern that the scale of the issue is now significantly greater, as the hotel population almost tripled over the course of 2021 with 26,380 people accommodated in hotels across the UK at the end of 2021. 

Following the publication of the Refugee Council’s previous report, the Home Office announced its
intention to move people from hotels into dispersal accommodation under ‘Operation Oak’. However,
over the course of 2021, limited progress was made, as Operation Oak failed to meet its objective of moving people out of hotels by the end of summer 2021. Rather than reducing the overall hotel population, the number of people being accommodated in hotels has continued to increase. This report shows that for people living in hotels, very little has improved over the last year. The prolonged stay in hotel accommodation is increasingly damaging people’s health and well-being,
causing depression and suicidal ideation. The Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) study set out
in the report and additional evidence clearly show the scale and damaging impact the prolonged use of hotels continues to have on vulnerable individuals.

The continued use of hotels is also having an impact on accommodation providers. There has been a
high rotation of staff, and Welfare Managers are struggling to visit accommodation sites as regularly as they used to.

It is disappointing that the Home Office has continued to open up new hotels with little or no
engagement with Local Authorities (LAs) and Strategic Migration Partnerships (SMPs) who ordinarily
play a pivotal role in the process of procuring asylum accommodation. This also makes it much more
challenging for NGOs like the Refugee Council to develop an operational service response, if services
are not informed when new hotels are being opened.

In addition to the human impact, the cost of hotels is extremely high. The Home Office needs to ensure the efficient use of public money, and that their policy and practice take a compassionate, personcentred approach so that people are treated with dignity and receive the level of support they deserve.

Accommodating vulnerable people in hotels on such a widespread basis, with little or no support to
meet their needs, runs counter to this. The government must urgently act to reduce the use of hotels and ensure that people seeking asylum accommodated in hotels are moved to community-based dispersal accommodation without delay.