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Thousands of asylum seekers living in hotels cannot be told refugee status

Thousands of asylum seekers living in hotels cannot be told if they have been granted refugee status, The independent can reveal.

Rishi Sunak has promised to clear a record backlog of asylum decisions, leaving more than 140,000 people awaiting their fate. He attributes this figure to an increase in small boat crossings and migrants “exploiting our system”.

And the interior minister accused officials of being too slow to assess asylum applications, telling a parliamentary committee: “Frankly, their productivity is too low.”

But The independent understands that a significant number of decisions have been made but not communicated to refugees due to Home Office rules preventing notifications from being made to people living in hotels.

Official guidelines state: “If the claimant is currently in the primary accommodation and has been granted leave, such as refugee leave, humanitarian protection, etc., aid workers should delay service of the (permit) until they have moved out of the original accommodation.”

The tangle of cases has left Interior Ministry officials struggling to find homes for those with decided cases through private companies, prolonging the fears of Afghans, Syrians and others unaware that their claims have been successful.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow Home Secretary, criticized “even more ridiculous Conservative bureaucracy” and called the situation “totally ridiculous”.

“This only increases the cost to the taxpayer as thousands of people are trapped in hotels because the Home Office cannot get a grip,” she said. The independent.

Asylum seekers awaiting decisions are not allowed to work and have to live on just £8 a week. They can’t find legal work for a year, and even then only jobs that are on the government’s list of shortage occupations.

The Home Office is required by law to support needy asylum seekers with shelter and food while their cases are considered, meaning the inability to serve decisions in hotels drives up costs for taxpayers.

The government is now spending at least £7m a day on hotels after focusing on failed policies it claimed would deter small boat migrants rather than create infrastructure and processes to cope with the expected increase in the number of arrivals.

Dame Diana Johnson, chair of the home affairs committee, said The independent: “Due to the government’s slow asylum procedures, some people have to wait years for a decision on their application. The result is a huge backlog of asylum applications, a huge hotel bill for the state coffers and people left in limbo – unable to move on with their lives.

“The prime minister has publicly promised to clear the asylum backlog by the end of this year. It is concerning to hear that there is yet another possible blockage in Home Office processes undermining this promise. We urgently need clarification from the government on this.”

A government information pack for asylum seekers states that initial accommodation should be used for up to a month before they are moved to “dispersed accommodation”, such as a flat or shared house.

But more than 45,000 asylum seekers are living in hotels, due to a shortage of good accommodation and pressure from last year’s increase in small boat crossings.

The system has come under pressure from the increase in the number of small boat crossings last year

(AFP/Getty)

The use of hotels for asylum seekers started to rise in late 2019 and increased further due to insufficiently distributed accommodation for the rapidly rising number of people crossing the Channel.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The failure of the Home Office to communicate its decisions on people’s asylum applications in a timely manner is deeply damaging to men, women and children who have lost everything.

“Refugees trapped in our asylum system have been through extremely traumatic experiences and all they want is to feel safe and be able to integrate into the UK.”

Mr Solomon said delays in granting refugee status to people “deprives them of the support and rights they are entitled to”, harming their health and well-being and exacerbating delays in the system.

At the end of September, there were more than 143,000 asylum seekers awaiting an initial decision on their application, nearly triple the number in 2019, and the government does not publish figures on how many of those decisions have been served.

Some of the nationalities that make up the largest population of people being accommodated in hotels, including Afghans and Syrians, have very high grant rates of around 98 percent, but only a small proportion of small migrant claims have been settled.

Albanians were the largest national group to cross the Channel in small boats last year, but are less likely to seek asylum or have their applications granted.

The Home Office said the barrier to serving asylum decisions in hotels only relates to granting protection, rather than denials, and exceptions could be made for vulnerable people.

A spokesperson said: “Under our published policy since 2015, we generally do not serve decisions to asylum seekers in primary accommodation, such as hotels, or emergency accommodation, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This is because we need to consider the impact that granting protection status will have on a local government and on the individual.”

“However, this has in no way affected the asylum backlog. We are currently hosting 58,500 people in our dispersed accommodation, for whom we can make faster decisions as we handle our cases, following an immediate boost of 2,500 caseworkers.”

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