Concern over nearly 250 asylum seekers kept in emergency accommodation at Bristol hotel

The hotel - which BristolWorld has decided not to name - has been taken over as part of the Home Office’s Asylum Dispersal Programme

A large hotel on the northern outskirts of Bristol is being used as emergency accommodation for more than 200 asylum seekers - with local charities concerned over a lack of support for those inside.

For several months, the Home Office has been using the hotel in South Gloucestershire for its Asylum Dispersal Programme, with 240 male adults reportedly inside, each provided with a basic room and food.

But charities are concerned over the boredom faced by the asylum seekers, many of whom, they say, are vulnerable due to traumatic experiences at home and on their journey here.

Some receive £8 a week from the Home Office, but even with that, charities say, mean they cannot afford clothes, activities and travel.

The hotel in South Gloucestershire has the highest number of asylum seekers out of five used for the dispersal programme in the Bristol region. They are all run by private housing provider Clearsprings Ready Homes on behalf of the Home Office.

Almost 250 male asylum seekers are staying in the hotel in the northern outskirts of Bristol. This is a stock image.

BristolWorld is not naming any of the hotels in light of the vulnerability of people staying there. Those inside are from countries like Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan and Eritrea.

The Home Office says continguency accommodation such as hotels are used during peak demand for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute while their claims are being assessed.

But critics say it is because of the delays in processing the claims.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are dealing with an unprecedented increase in asylum cases but despite this we continue to ensure that the accommodation provided is safe, secure and leaves no one destitute.

“The Home Office does not comment on operational arrangements for individual hotels.”

Among the groups providing support to those inside the South Gloucestershire hotel is Bristol-based Aid Box Community, which receives some funding from South Gloucestershire Council.

Founder Imogen McIntosh said the group handed out money for bus fares so some of the men could reach the charity’s shop in Cotham to pick up clothes, volunteer or find other support services.

She also said activities were put on such as football sessions.

She said: “Imagine 250 young British men locked up in a hotel together for so long and the chaos that would bring. This is a melting pot for disaster - many are traumatised and bored out their minds - so it is incredible how patient they have all been.

“But they are also desperate to do something.”

Ms McIntosh said the hotel had a swimming pool and sauna which none of the men were allowed to use. She also said they were initially served cold sandwiches each day, however this has since changed with hot food now supplied.

She added: “There needs to be more support and opportunities for these people - they need our help, and we can’t just keep herding them the country around like animals.”

Many of those at the hotel will be among the 385 asylum seekers who were receiving financial assistance and accommodation in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset in December last year, according to Home Office figures.

Their accommodation in the hotels is chosen by Clearsprings Ready Homes, but can be changed at short notice to be moved elsewhere in the country.

South Gloucestershire Council was given notificiation for the use of the hotel in its district. It has since worked with local agencies such as Aid Box to support those inside on issues such as healthcare.

The council is also responsible for the residents’ safeguarding and welfare.

A spokesperson said: “South Gloucestershire has a proud history of welcoming people of all nationalities and although the facilities are run and managed under contract on behalf of the Home Office, we are working with local agencies to provide a safe and supportive environment for these vulnerable people with access to support services as required.

They added: “We are also responsible for safeguarding and welfare and engage with the Home Office and their contractors to ensure that these needs are met and any concerns are addressed if they arise.”

While 385 asylum seekers in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset receive financial and accommodation support through what is known as Section 95 support from the Home Office, at least 65 in the region are believed to be homeless, sofa-surfing or living at someone’s address.

An asylum seeker cannot work and is someone who is seeking sanctuary while applying for the right to be recognised as a refugee.

Nationally, asylum applications in the UK increased by 63% to 48,540 in 2021 – the highest number in almost two decades.

To support the work of Aid Box visit their website here, or donate to its crowdfunder here. Other charities supporting asylum seekers in the city are Borderlands, Bristol Hospitality Network and Bristol Refugee Rights.