The UK government announced recently that it would be ceasing to use 50 hotels to accommodate asylum seekers. We know that the Novotel in Ipswich is among these, and that the asylum seekers currently living there will be moved out by the end of November. We have worked closely with people placed at the Novotel for the past year and there is still a lot of uncertainty around what happens next for many of them. We are seeing people at our office every day who are really worried about where they might be sent. Many have made community links here, are involved in volunteering or studying, or have ongoing health treatment needs. Some people have been informed at short notice that they are being moved to different parts of the country that they don’t know at all. For people who have already been forcibly displaced, often more than once, being uprooted and moved again when they have begun to settle in a place of safety just adds to anxiety and trauma.
We are doing everything we can to support people through this process – working with health professionals to make sure urgent needs are taken into account, referring people to other support organisations and services if they know where they are being moved to, and providing as much reassurance as we can. But while we see people as individual human beings, the system they are in can be quite impersonal and uncaring, with a lack of clear information or consideration of personal circumstances.
You can read our latest response to the news in the Ipswich Star here and here, listen to us discussing the situation on BBC Radio Suffolk here (from 2:06:30 in), and read our full response to the situation below.
We would always prefer to see asylum seekers housed in the community, where they can have more independence and a better chance to integrate. Being stuck in hotels, two or more to a room, for long periods while not allowed to work and receiving just £9.58 per week is not healthy for anyone. But the use of hotels only came about because of the failure to process people’s asylum claims, leaving them in limbo for months or years on end.
Many of those at the Novotel have been through horrendous experiences. We have seen people arrive in a state of shock, struggling to process what has happened. People come to our office in the cold in flip flops and the only clothes they own. We’ve heard their stories, we’ve given them underwear and warm clothes, we’ve put on English classes, helped orientate people to UK life, organised training and volunteering opportunities. The local community have provided amazing support – from churches to individuals and organisations, like the Ipswich Town Foundation football sessions which have been such a success.
These are people from Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Eritrea – all countries with very high asylum success rates. The great majority of them will ultimately be granted protection in the UK. So we would like them to be given fair and fast hearings on their claims so they can move on with their lives and start contributing fully to UK society. However, shunting them into temporary accommodation elsewhere just as many have started to settle, make community connections and get involved in volunteering here will only cause further harm.