Frequently asked questions about contingency accommodation for asylum seekers in Chichester
You may be aware that the Home Office recently informed both West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council that a hotel in the Chichester area was being considered for use as contingency accommodation for people seeking asylum.
It's important to explain that decisions around use of hotels and placements for those seeking asylum are made by the Home Office. We are not involved in the decision-making process.
However, we understand that you have lots of questions about this situation and what involvement the two councils have with the process. We have put together a number of responses to some frequently asked questions, which will hopefully help provide understanding around what's going on. We will continue to update these when we receive more information.
- Why are asylum seekers being placed in hotels?
- Did the Home Office ask West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council if the hotel could be used for this?
- Have either of the councils received any funding for this?
- Who is responsible for the day to day running of these hotels?
- Will the people being accommodated be single persons or families?
- How long will those seeking asylum remain in Chichester?
- If asylum seekers are moved into the hotel, will they be given permanent housing in the district?
- Do people seeking asylum have access to local health services?
- Can asylum seekers claim welfare benefits?
- Are these people classed as asylum seekers or illegal migrants?
- I'm concerned about the hateful comments being directed at asylum seekers. What can be done?
- Can I get in contact with the Home Office for more information?
Why are asylum seekers being placed in hotels?
People seeking asylum in the UK can apply for asylum support if they are destitute. The Home Office has a statutory obligation to provide support including accommodation to destitute asylum seekers whilst their claims are being considered.
Due to the rise in the numbers of people seeking asylum in the UK and the volume of applications to be processed, hotels — alongside other types of accommodation — are being used across the country as additional contingency accommodation.
Did the Home Office ask West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council if the hotel could be used for this?
No. The Home Office contracts an organisation to source accommodation for asylum applicants on their behalf and then makes the decision on which hotels are used as contingency accommodation and who will be placed. This is carried out in agreement with the hotel owner. We get briefed at short notice once a hotel has been selected for this purpose.
Have either of the councils received any funding for this?
No, we have not received any funding. The Home Office contract a partner organisation to provide accommodation for asylum applicants. They provide and manage accommodation by engaging directly with landlords or owners of premises or through third party procurement and management companies.
Who is responsible for the day to day running of these hotels?
The Home Office contract a partner organisation who are accountable for all services provided within hotel accommodation which includes delivery of onsite wraparound services for those seeking asylum. This Home Office subcontractor directly manage the relationship with the accommodation owners and hotel management staff including catering, housekeeping, and maintenance.
Will the people being accommodated be single persons or families?
This is a Home Office decision and can change based on need. Initial information provided indicates that the intention is for the hotel to be used for families with children and single adult females.
How long will those seeking asylum remain in Chichester?
We do not know how long the average stay will be for those moved to this temporary accommodation by the Home Office.
If asylum seekers are moved into the hotel, will they be given permanent housing in the district?
People staying at the hotel temporarily may be moved on to other temporary dispersed accommodation provided by central government whilst their claim for asylum is considered. This could be anywhere in the country and is not provided by local councils.
Where asylum is granted, people are recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention and are allowed to remain in the UK for an initial period of five years.
Where the Home Office grants asylum, people will be given a Biometric Residence Permit; an identity document allowing the person to work, study, access public funds and find a place to live.
There is no rule to say people must settle where they have been staying while awaiting a decision on their application for asylum in the UK.
Do people seeking asylum have access to local health services?
Yes, they can access local health services in the same way as any person visiting West Sussex on a temporary basis would do. They would be registered with the local GP practice and each patient would have an initial health assessment. From then on, they would book future appointments in the same way that existing patients would do.
Can asylum seekers claim welfare benefits?
Asylum seekers are not able to claim welfare benefits.
Are these people classed as asylum seekers or illegal migrants?
Where people have submitted a claim for asylum to the Home Office, they are recognised as asylum seekers and are waiting for their asylum application to be assessed.
Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim. This is a legal process.
An asylum seeker is someone who has left their country, often suddenly, because they are faced with persecution, war or violence and cannot get protection there. Many have fled war-torn countries, were trafficked to the UK or faced persecution and violence. They have temporary accommodation until their asylum request has been processed.
The Home Office are responsible for processing claims for asylum and aim to process those applications within six months.
Where asylum is granted, people are recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention and are allowed to remain in the UK for five years. At the end of five years, subject to the outcome of any review and to the policies in place at the time, people can seek indefinite leave to remain.
I'm concerned about the hateful comments being directed at asylum seekers. What can be done?
If you are concerned about comments that you consider are a hate incident or crime, then please report them on West Susex County Council website.
Can I get in contact with the Home Office for more information?
Should members of the public wish to contact the Home Office directly they can be contacted on email@example.com or by calling 0207 035 4848.
Date of Release: 22 September 2023
Updated: 28 November 2023