Refugees are facing homelessness and destitution as a result of UK government plans to cut the use of hotel accommodation, ministers have been warned.
The number of hotels used to house asylum seekers will be reduced by 50 – or 12 per cent – over the next three months, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has announced.
But campaigners, local councils and experts have raised fears that the closure plans could lead to homelessness among asylum seekers and those who have been granted refugee status.
The opposition Labour Party has also accused the Conservative government of axing the hotel accommodation in areas where they stand to gain politically from ending a practice that is often unpopular with local communities.
About 400 hotels are currently used to accommodate asylum seekers.
Marley Morris, who leads the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank's work on migration, told The National he fears refugees could be left with nowhere to live.
“While the Home Office might be making progress on clearing the backlog of older asylum claims, there is a major risk that as people are granted status and moved out of hotels they will be left homeless,” said Mr Morris, the IPPR's associate director.
“This will also place further pressures on local council homelessness teams, who are already struggling given the UK's affordable housing crisis.”
Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said refugees whose asylum claim has been successful are already finding themselves homeless after being evicted from accommodation.
“In closing hotels, we are now seeing a homelessness crisis developing with newly recognised refugees being given as little as seven days before they are evicted from accommodation,” he said.
“Instead of being a moment of celebration, receiving refugee status is, for far too many, currently a ticket to homelessness with the cost being passed on to councils.
“The Government should put in place an asylum system that treats people with humanity, giving them a fair hearing in the UK, providing the support they need and a decision in months, not years.”
Shaun Davies, the chair of the Local Government Association which represents councils in England and Wales, warned that refugees are facing “destitution and street homelessness throughout the winter”.
He said local authorities are “increasingly concerned over the numbers of asylum seekers presenting as homeless”.
The problem “is likely to dramatically increase when Home Office accommodation is withdrawn as a result of the current clearance of the asylum backlog”.
“Given increased demand and the acute shortage of housing available across the country, it will make it extremely challenging for those leaving accommodation to find affordable, long-term accommodation,” he said.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock questioned whether the hotels selected for closure are located in marginal seats.
The Home Office has not disclosed the hotels' exact locations, but five of the six constituencies where they are known to be located are held by Conservative MPs.
“Does he really think the public might not see through that ruse?” Mr Kinnock said.
Britain's asylum backlog hit a record total at the end of June with 175,457 people waiting for their applications to be processed, a rise of 44 per cent in a year.
Home Office figures released in August showed 80 per cent of those had been waiting longer than six months for an initial decision.