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How to step up when people seeking sanctuary are housed in local hotel accommodation

So you’ve heard people seeking sanctuary are soon to be housed in hotel accommodation in your local area? Now is the time to step up and rally your community together to give support and show solidarity. Read on for six practical steps you can take.

After fleeing war and persecution, your welcome could mean that someone seeking sanctuary feels safe for the first time. Your words and actions have power.

First off, let’s get some things straight. Hotel accommodation is not suitable for long term housing.

At the moment, people are being housed in hotels across the UK because there is a lack of suitable accommodation. Over recent years, the time it takes for a decision to be made on someone’s asylum application is getting longer and longer, meaning there is a backlog of applications and more people in need of accommodation whilst waiting for a decision.

Whilst people wait for a decision on their asylum claim, most people seeking asylum are not allowed to work and those staying in hotels are not able to cook for themselves, instead they are given basic food and only £8 a week to cover all other costs like transport, clothes, hygiene and personal care. There have been reports that have criticised the quality of the food people are given and whether they can eat it according to their religious beliefs.

These hotels are often in isolated locations far from the rest of the community. The poor quality accommodation, isolation, lack of privacy and basic essentials often damages people’s physical and mental health.

People seeking asylum can often be moved on very suddenly to new accommodation and parts of the UK, even if children are attending local schools. This can be incredibly destabilising for families.

This is what you can do:

1) Build solidarity locally. You may face a rise in far right activity. Don’t let hatred win. Read our 10 point plan on how to respond to hostility here.

2) Change the story. Speak up for refugee rights – talk to people about why you care and encourage them to do the same. Download our handbook here for support on speaking out and standing up. Ensure your local news champion stories focusing on compassion and hope not division and hostility. Find out more here.

3) Words are powerful, use them well. Download this useful messaging guide about how to talk about asylum sites.

4) Plan community actions which show solidarity to those people forced to flee. Platform stories of why people are forced to flee and begin to normalise compassion within your community. Find out more here.

5) Roll up your sleeves. Reach out to your local council and make it clear you want to support those housed in the hotels. This could be through offering:

  • English language classes
  • A buddy system connecting hotel residents with locals
  • Sanctuary days bringing people together through shared activities
  • Clothing collections – people often arrive with nothing and need to be supported with appropriate clothing, hygiene items, books and other items.

When hundreds of people seeking sanctuary were moved to the woefully inadequate Penally Barracks, the local community rapidly came together to offer support and friendship: organising distributions of vital supplies, running education classes, befriending sessions, sports sessions, wellbeing day trips and coordinating a bike borrowing scheme. Their response is a blueprint for how commuities can step up. Read about it here.

6) Communities not camps. Join the campaign calling for people seeking sanctuary to be housed as our neighbours, not warehoused in inappropriate, often prison-like hotels, barges and ex-military bases. Click here to take action.

Watch this webinar we held in February where Mabli Jones of Asylum Matters provided overview of the wider picture around hotels and institutional accommodation and Asylum Matters work on this issue; and Elahe Ziai of IMIX provided key suggestions for how to manage any media queries/reports around the hotel accommodation issue.

Image: Penally’s bike bank/free shop providing dignity and choice.