How much do asylum seekers living in hotels get to live on per week?

13 June 2022
What was claimed

“Illegal immigrants” are kept in hotels and are fed and clothed as well as receiving benefits.

Our verdict

If an asylum seeker is placed in contingency accommodation such as a hotel, which offers meals, they are eligible for £8.24 per week to cover clothes, non-prescription medication and travel. They are not eligible for mainstream benefits.

A post on Facebook says: “Can I ask why illegal immigrants are kept in hotels and are fed and clothed as well as receiving benefits? Why do they need benifts [sic] as well? If the Benefits were to stop, I feel that the influx of people would reduce dramatically.”

The post appears to be referring to asylum seekers who arrive in the UK illegally when it uses the term “illegal immigrants”, as it later goes on to mention them being sent to Rwanda. 

The government is planning to send asylum seekers who arrived to the UK illegally to Rwanda, so their asylum claims can be considered there under Rwanda’s domestic asylum system. (Under this scheme, if successful, they will not return to the UK, but will have refugee status in Rwanda.)

Asylum seekers are not eligible for mainstream benefits and are generally not allowed to work either.

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Do those in full-board accommodation get these payments?

When someone first arrives in the UK intending to seek asylum and applies for asylum support, they are provided with initial accommodation while their eligibility for further support is assessed. People have to be destitute to get this initial accommodation (and for subsequent asylum support if it is granted).

Stays in this kind of accommodation are intended to be short term (less than 35 days) but there have been significant delays in the last couple of years meaning people have stayed in these places for much longer. 

According to the House of Commons library: “Initial accommodation typically takes the form of full-board hostel-style accommodation. People in receipt of full-board accommodation under section 98 [before their application for support has been approved] do not receive financial support.”

So in most cases, where initial accommodation is full-board, asylum seekers won’t get financial support. In some cases, including in Northern Ireland and Scotland, initial accommodation will be self-catered and asylum seekers will receive some financial support to help buy food.

Then what happens?

If their application for asylum support is granted, theoretically an asylum seeker is moved from initial accommodation to dispersal accommodation, which is usually a furnished flat or house away from London or the south-east. 

If they get this kind of self-catering accommodation, they can also get £40.85 per week for each person in their household on a prepaid card, to pay for things like food, clothing and toiletries. Children and pregnant women get an extra £3 to £5 per week on top of that and there’s a one-off £300 maternity payment available to those with a baby due in eight weeks or less or have a baby under six weeks old.

Staying in hotels

However, if there’s no designated accommodation available, some asylum seekers will be offered “contingency accommodation” which includes hotels or B&Bs.

There have been cases of asylum seekers being offered this kind of accommodation in hotels, (and barracks) for extended periods of time, especially during the pandemic. According to the Home Office in April 2022, there were over 25,000 asylum seekers “being accommodated in temporary contingency accommodation, such as hotels”.

If this accommodation is full board, so provides meals for people, asylum seekers staying there do not get £40.85 per week

Following a High Court ruling, in October 2020, the government announced that people in such accommodation would start getting £8 per week up from £5, “to meet needs related to clothes, non-prescription medicines and travel” and that some costs would be backdated. As of April 2022 this amount is £8.24 per week.

So it’s not quite true to say asylum seekers are kept in hotels and are fed and clothed as well as receiving benefits. If their accommodation means they are fed, they receive £8.24 per week to clothe themselves and pay for “essential living needs” not provided by their accommodation.

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