United Kingdom

UK asylum seekers: More than 9,000 are now living in 91 hotels across the country

More than 9,000 asylum seekers are living in 91 hotels across the country after a record year for Channel crossings, MPs have been told.

Home Office officials told the Public Accounts Committee 9,500 people have been put up in almost a hundred hotels in around 50 local authority areas.

And the department's permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told the committee: 'There are more people coming into the aylum system at the moment than are leaving it and that is because of Covid'.

Second permanent secretary Shona Dunn couldn't tell MPs how many people are waiting to be deported and how many have been granted asylum but are yet to be given permanent accommodation. 

Home Office officials told the Public Accounts Committee 9,500 people have been put up in almost a hundred hotels in around 50 local authority areas. Pictured, Royal House in Hull city centre is housing migrants

The Novotel Hotel near Newcastle Airport is housing migrants. Second permanent secretary Shona Dunn couldn't tell MPs how many people are waiting to be deported and how many have been granted asylum but are yet to be given permanent accommodation

Hotels in Hull, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southport and Glasgow were used amid a shortage of permanent accommodation for newcomers to live while their asylum claims were assessed.

It comes as reports suggested the Home Secretary Priti Patel was looking at 'offshoring' refugees arriving in Britain in places including Ascension island and St Helena in the south Atlantic.

On Tuesday around 40 people are understood to have been detained as they took advantage of a change in weather conditions to arrive in the UK.

During the Home Office meeting committee member Shabana Mahmood asked for more precise figures to be provided because there was 'no other way of measuring any of your performance'. She added: 'The number is going up.

Hotels in Hull, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southport and Glasgow were used amid a shortage of permanent accommodation for newcomers to live while their asylum claims were assessed. Pictured, The Royal Hotel in Hull city centre

'Your ministers, in response to parliamentarians, suggest a number of reasons why that is happening.

'But without some numbers, which I'm sure you can obtain, we can't actually measure your progress.'

The department was criticised for failing to inform councils and MPs of plans to house asylum seekers in hotels in their area.

Ms Dunn said the Home Office was dealing with a 'very fast-moving situation' and said it had done its 'utmost to engage with local authorities'.

But Ms Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham, Ladywood, said people found out in the press, on Twitter or even by accident.

Ms Dunn said there was 'certainly no intention at all, ever, to leave anyone feeling they have been treated with contempt' but admitted: 'There have absolutely been some issues.'

Some 122 asylum seekers tested positive for coronavirus while being housed in hotels during the pandemic, the committee heard.

It comes as reports suggested the Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured on September 22) was looking at 'offshoring' refugees arriving in Britain in places including Ascension island and St Helena in the south Atlantic 

MPs were told there were two outbreaks - one in Birmingham and another in Wakefield.

A total of 6,776 asylum seekers had to self-isolate during the course of the crisis and there are now 750 doing so, with 348 shielding, Ms Dunn said.

One boat with 13 people - 11 men and two teenage boys - landed on Shakespeare's Beach at Dover in Kent with a second understood to have landed further down the coast at Kingsdown near Deal on Tuesday. 

The latest migrant crossing comes as it was revealed that asylum seekers who are being housed in an army barracks in Kent are being crammed into rooms of 20 people. 

Migrants are currently being housed in Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, which has been repurposed for them

Refugees who are staying at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, have revealed that 20 people are being forced to share two toilets and two showers between them, amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

Ms Mahmood asked why the Home Office moved asylum seekers who had tested positive for coronavirus out of Birmingham to a hotel in Hammersmith, west London, in August without the council being informed, 'thereby spreading the virus across the country'.

2020 Channel migrant numbers hit 7,000 

At least 7,000 migrants have managed to cross to the UK in small boats this year.

Wednesday marked the 100th separate day when people have arrived in small boats in 2020, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

Migrants crammed into unsafe dinghies have reached the UK from France on more than one in every three days, data shows.

Immigration officials say screening centres are sometimes being 'overwhelmed' by the high numbers while staff remain conscious of the threat of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, charities continue to call on the Home Office to provide safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to put an end to the perilous Channel crossings.

In 2019, Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to make such journeys an 'infrequent phenomenon', but UK law enforcement now believe the issue will be here for a while.

A handful of people were seen arriving in Dover on Wednesday as migrants attempt the crossing before the weather worsens in autumn and winter.

Wednesday marked the 100th separate day of 2020 where migrants have successfully crossed the Dover Strait to the UK in small boats, PA analysis shows.

This means that people are successfully making the dangerous crossing more than once every three days.

The number of migrants arriving each day is heavily weather-dependent, with fewer than 10 arrivals on some days and hundreds making it to Dover on others.

In September alone, nearly 2,000 migrants reached the UK, more than the figure for the entirety of 2019.

Immigration staff say the 'sheer volume' of migrant crossings in 2020 is 'unprecedented' and has presented significant challenges. 

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, said: 'More needs to be done to bring an end to illegal trafficking and illegal migration. All options must be on the table to close down the route itself.

'The French must stop boats leaving in the first place, boats should be returned to France instead of bringing them into Britain, and we should return people who come in through these illegal routes, no ifs or buts.'

Branding this a 'pretty significant failure of practice', she asked for a full written explanation of what happened.

Ms Dunn replied: 'My understanding was that it was a very last-minute change and as soon as engagement could happen, it did.'

Another MP informed the committee on Wednesday that this had also happened in Coventry, chairman Meg Hillier said.

Ms Dunn was also unable to say how many of the hotels had been visited by 'protesters, activists or far-right organisations' during the pandemic, adding: 'I am aware of a number but we are not tracking the number and there will be some hotels that received multiple visits.' 

Home Office chiefs last month apologised for an 'error' after Nigel Farage was filmed visiting a hotel housing migrants in Priti Patel's constituency. 

The former UKIP MEP shared a video on Twitter in which he is seen visiting the £54-a-night Rivenhall Hotel in Witham, Essex.

While sharing a shortened version of his seven-minute long video, he also accused the MP of 'taking Britons for a ride'.

Bosses at the Home Office say they have launched a 'full review' into their operation of finding temporary accommodation for asylum seekers who arrive in the UK without a home to go to.

Ms Mahmood said she was 'astounded' to hear the Home Office is not keeping a running total of incidents given the safety implications and that the police were now investigating.

'We do have a line of sight on this,' Ms Dunn insisted.

She was also asked to clarify in writing how many deportations had taken place during the pandemic and the figure for the months prior to the coronavirus outbreak, after confusion over statistics being provided during the hearing.

Ms Dunn initially suggested, among citing other figures, that the number of charter flights for deportations was 231 since January 2019 but later said this only related to removals of migrants who had crossed the Channel in small boats.

Meanwhile, leaks now being investigated suggested the Home Office considered putting wave machines and a floating 'wall' in the Channel to stop migrant crossings.

They may also have planned to house them on retired ferries. 

Although the France-facing wave machine idea has been dismissed the department has consulted maritime industries on the plausibility of a floating barrage between England and the continent, the Financial Times reported. 

But Ms Patel was left furious at slew of negative briefings about the plans to crack down on abuses, on the day the number of migrants entering the UK in 2020 reached 7,000. 

There are also claims that Boris Johnson's top aides, including Dominic Cummings, are the targets of the briefing rather than Ms Patel, as Downing Street has been pushing heavily for the 'offshoring' policy.

Allies of the Home Secretary said she did not believe the negative briefing was coming from her department and sighted their guns on other parts of Government.

'People are having a bit of a free for all,' one said. 'There is a lot of briefing from the Cabinet Office. They have a task force (on offshoring) there.

Home Office chiefs have also apologised for an 'error' after Nigel Farage was filmed visiting a hotel housing migrants in Priti Patel's constituency 

They pointed out that much of the material was 'damaging to No10'. 'There are people who have spent the last three weeks going after the PM and now are going after his advisers.'

Meanwhile Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon lashed out at suggestions that some could be housed on Islands around Britain, including off the coast of Scotland. 

Home Office Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft told MPs today that the Cabinet Office has launched an investigation into the leaks.  

Asked at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whether he thought the investigation will take account of the timing of the leaks and whether they were politically motivated, he said: 'I'm sure they will look at all relevant factors.' 

The Rivehall Hotel is a hotel in Witham, Essex, which has a three out of five star rating on both Google and TripAdvisor

The wave machine option plan was among 'blue sky' ideas looked at by officials to discourage migrants from trying to cross in small boats - although it was quickly rejected. 

The government has been working on ways to overhaul the creaking asylum system and crack down on abuse.

Sources complained that already-dismissed proposals such as creating a processing site on Ascension Island, more than 4,000 miles from the UK, were being leaked by officials who 'don't like the whole concept'.

Ironically, a snap YouGov poll has found the public backed the idea of by a margin of 40 per cent to 35 per cent. However, that proposal has already been ditched.  

An ally of the Home Secretary said 'offshoring' was being attacked by people who did not like it.

A further 13 migrants arrived in Dover by dinghy Tuesday after crossing the Channel at night

'It is a perfectly logical idea, but someone who doesn't like the whole concept said "you can only do it if it happens 4,000 miles away" and leaked that,' they said.

The Isle of Wight proposal is understood to have 'problems', but other islands around the UK - including off the coast of Scotland - and old ferries are being seriously looked at.

'This is still very early days,' one source said. 

Ms Sturgeon waded into the row today, saying: 'They can rest assured that any proposal to treat human beings like cattle in a holding pen will be met with the strongest possible opposition from me.' 

Official documents marked 'sensitive' and produced earlier this month, summarise advice from officials at the Foreign Office, which was asked by No10 to 'offer advice on possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru'. 

Up to forty migrants arriving by dinghy are brought into harbour by HMS vigilant Tuesday

Border Force officials and police escorted the migrants away after picking them up from the shores in the early hours of Tuesday morning

The Home Office and asylum accommodation providers Mears, Serco and Clearsprings currently use hotels to house those in need due to the halting of all removals of applicants from properties amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

A source said: 'Usually there would be enough accommodation available as there are always people moved on after being given asylum or refused. There is not at the moment. The answer has been to source hotel accommodation, usually in three-star hotels.'

The Home Office said: 'Since March the number of people within the asylum system has risen. 

'This is because we temporarily ceased ending asylum support for those whose claims have been either granted or refused. This is to ensure people were not made homeless during lockdown.'    

Some 4,000 rooms were orginally booked to house the asylum seekers amid a spate of crossings in small boats during the summer weather in August.

Football news:

Hans-Dieter flick: I Hope Alaba will sign a contract with Bayern. Our club is one of the best in the world
Diego Maradona: Messi gave Barca everything, brought them to the top. He was not treated the way he deserved
Federico Chiesa: I hope to leave my mark in Juve. We will achieve great results
The Coach Of Benfica: I don't want us to look like the current Barcelona, it has nothing
Guardiola on returning to Barca: I'm happy at Manchester City. I hope to stay here
Fabinho will not play with West ham due to injury
Ronald Koeman: Maradona was the best in his time. Now the best Messi