Post exaggerates benefits available to asylum seekers

22 February 2024
What was claimed

Asylum seekers are housed in four-star hotels.

Our verdict

Some hotels housing asylum seekers have been four-star, but many are not and many asylum seekers—who are offered accommodation on a “no choice” basis—aren’t housed in hotels at all.

What was claimed

Asylum seekers receive new iPhones.

Our verdict

This is misleading. The Home Office does not generally provide asylum seekers with phones, though there are some exceptions. Some charities do give asylum seekers donated smartphones, but these appear to be typically second-hand.

What was claimed

Asylum seekers receive £45 per week.

Our verdict

This figure is out of date, and only applies to some. Asylum seekers are presently entitled to £49.18 per week if the accommodation they are staying in does not provide meals. Otherwise they receive £8.86 per week.

An image circulating on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) suggests that asylum seekers arriving in Britain are provided with new iPhones, housed in 4-star hotels and given a payment of £45 a week. 

The image is of a black man holding up a large picture frame, inside which the following words have been superimposed: “We Knew how limp you Brits are' so we invade on A Daily basis ‘ 4 Star hotels New iPhones, £45 a week. It's a Dream come true. [sic]”

This list is misleading, and exaggerates the benefits asylum seekers typically receive when arriving in the UK. The £45 figure is also out of date. 

False or misleading claims online have the potential to harm individuals, groups and democratic processes and institutions. Online claims can spread fast and far, and are difficult to contain and correct.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

Housing options

The Home Office has a statutory duty to provide accommodation for asylum seekers who do not have the means to obtain it themselves or cannot meet their essential living needs. But asylum seekers are not able to choose where they are based or the type of accommodation they are placed in. 

As those applying for asylum are generally unable to work while they are processed by the Home Office, they can be housed by the government until the claim is either approved or rejected.

During this time, asylum seekers are generally placed in initial, short-term, hostel-type accommodation before being moved into dispersal accommodation while awaiting a decision on their claim. According to a House of Commons Library briefing, this can take the form of private dwellings in local communities such as furnished flats or houses. Single adults will share properties and may sometimes share rooms with those of the same sex. 

However, a rise in the number of asylum seekers in recent years has seen the government increasingly use hotels around the country as a temporary form of accommodation, alongside flats, hostels and houses.

It is true that asylum seekers have in some cases been housed in four-star hotels—for example, this has reportedly happened near Cambridge and in East Yorkshire. But it’s unclear what proportion of the hotels used are four-star.The Home Office has previously stated that the vast majority of hotels used for asylum seekers do not have a minimum star requirement. The charity Refugee Action also says some of the hotels used have been found with rat or insect infestations as well as issues such as damp or mould which also affect longer-term accommodation. 

In any event, the most recent available data shows that many asylum seekers are not housed in hotels at all. Home Office figures for the end of September 2023 show that of 123,758 asylum seekers in receipt of support, 56,042 were living in hotel “contingency accommodation”, and 1,968 were living in “initial accommodation” which may include hotels. Some 58,444 were living in dispersal accommodation.

Last October the government reiterated that the use of hotels was a temporary measure and announced plans to reduce the number of such properties being used to house asylum seekers. 

Means of communication

Asylum seekers do not receive phones as part of their standard support package from the Home Office, though a number of charities do provide donated phones to new arrivals to make it easier for them to contact solicitors and monitor the progress of their claims. 

This means it’s possible some asylum seekers could end up with iPhones, though we’ve not seen any specific reports of this. If so, the phones are unlikely to be new as phones donated by charities appear to be typically second-hand, and donated phones are not available to everyone. 

One such charity providing devices is Migrant Help.  A spokesperson told Full Fact: “We provide phones to some of our clients, who include people seeking asylum and survivors of trafficking and modern slavery, as part of a digital inclusion project that is independent of our Home Office funding, and therefore also the taxpayer. These phones are provided by arrangement with corporate donors.”

The Home Office told Full Fact that people on asylum support are not given a mobile phone by the Home Office as it is not considered an essential need. People who are housed in catered accommodation will have the means to communicate included as part of this, but they are not given a personal mobile device.

The support payments given to people housed in self-catered accommodation are calculated to include the cost of accessing some form of communication and it will be up to the individual to decide how to spend this.

There are some exceptions to this, however. Around 14,000 mobile phones were reported to have been handed out to asylum seekers during the course of the pandemic as immigration staff were unable to interview individuals face to face because of Covid-19 restrictions. However, this was a temporary measure. 

Financial support

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

The £45 payment quoted in the Facebook post is out of date, having been set at this level in December 2022, and is also not a figure which applies to all asylum seekers—it is only for those who are living in accommodation where meals are not provided. The allowance was increased to £47.39 on an interim basis in July 2023 and increased again in December. Asylum seekers currently receive £49.18 per week if they are living in accommodation where meals are not provided. This would usually mean they were staying somewhere other than a hotel, such as a private dwelling

When meals are provided, the cash allowance falls to £8.86 per person per week. 

The money is loaded onto a dedicated debit card which can be used to make payments directly or to withdraw funds from a cash machine. 

Additional payments for food are available for pregnant women and mothers of children aged under three. 

We have previously written a number of fact checks looking at claims about the level of support provided to asylum seekers. 

Image courtesy of Daniel Andrews

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.