The number of hotels being used to house asylum seekers in the UK is about to reach 400 as migrants continue to cross the Channel in small boats, MailOnline can reveal.
The milestone figure for Home Office contractors taking over hotels is likely to be reached imminently as efforts to convert redundant military bases into alternative accommodation centres.
Currently 395 hotels in the UK are understood to be being used to accommodate more than 51,000 people at a reported cost of £6.8million a day – but the number is constantly increasing as the Government battles to start moving some asylum seekers to Rwanda while their applications to stay in the UK are processed.
The use of hotels continues to create controversy with residents of cities, towns and villages upset about local beds being turned over to refugees instead of paying guests.
And asylum seekers themselves are also frequently unhappy about languishing in sometimes isolated hotels, and unable to work due to strict rules, a MailOnline investigation has found.
Typical were asylum seekers staying at the three-star Grosvenor Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, who told of their unhappiness about their living arrangements.
Confused asylum seekers, of mixed nationalities, forced to congregate in the front yard of the hotel during a fire alarm drill
A family of four Sri Lankans (declined to be fully named) who are squashed into one small room – mum and dad, who is trying to work to support his family, and their six-year-old daughter and son, aged two-and-a-half.
Grosvenor Hotel in the famous tourist town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire – now shut to paying guests and housing ‘unhappy and complaining’ refugees
Iraqi mother Neshteman Tahir, 37, said: ‘It’s awful here and there are too many problems. We don’t want to be living all together in a hotel, we want a house so we can be independent.’
Speaking in the grounds of the hotel which had a multi-million-pound refurbishment before closing to paying guests five months ago, she moaned: ‘No one likes living here.
‘We all hate it and we are shut in our rooms all day with nothing to do. The hotel is very, very bad. We want a proper home.’
Her eight-year-old son told how he went to a local school for five hours a day but had been unable to make friends.
He added: ‘I want a big house with a swing and trampoline in the garden and want to make friends. It is really boring here! Me and my mum need our own home.’
We also found refugees kicking their heels this week in the four star Great Hallingbury Manor Hotel near Takeley, Essex, with little to do apart from walking half a mile to buy snacks and drinks at a nearby Esso garage.
Scores of young men from Africa and other countries including Afghanistan have lived since last October at the Tudor-style hotel which describes its 43 rooms and suites on its website as being ‘progressively stylish, immensely comfortable and pristinely maintained’.
The arrival of the migrants has dismayed some residents of the new Mead Field Drive housing development, overlooking fields next door to the hotel.
One resident Kamila Kardzis said: ‘It seems wrong that they are getting a free roof over their head in a nice hotel.
‘You see them walking around with nice iPhones and smart clothes. They are all men. You do not see any women or children.’
Ms Kardzis who is Polish and has lived in the UK for 17 years, added: ‘I came here as a migrant as well – but I am working and pay taxes. I don’t claim benefits.
‘It would be better if they were allowed to work. Instead they have nothing to do all day and just sit around. It is not a good life for them.’
Ms Kardzis said she believed her security camera had captured footage of one of the migrants creeping around her back garden and looking through a window while she was decorating her home before moving in.
Iraqi mum Neshteman Tahir and her eight-year-old son who says: ‘We want a proper home not a hotel where there is nothing to do. I want a big house with a swing and a trampoline in the garden and to make friends. It’s so boring here!’
Refugee mum and her daughter (both unnamed) who moans: ‘We’re bored here, the rooms are too small and the food is very bad.’
She added: ‘I saw another guy wandering around outside our house just before 1am about a month ago. I asked him what he was doing and he didn’t reply. I just told him to get back to the hotel.’
Refrigeration engineer Ayden Yilmaz, 29, said he was angry about migrants being accommodated in the hotel while council officials had refused to house him after he split with his girlfriend who lives on Mead Field Drive.
The father-of-three said: ‘I have been sofa surfing, sleeping in my car and splashing out on the occasional night in a Travelodge. When I went to the council to try and get some help, they told me to rent privately, which I simply cannot afford.
‘I mentioned the migrants in the hotel when I spoke to the council, but it didn’t do me any good. It is just annoying that they come here and get a nice hotel room, while I was born here, work hard, pay tax and National Insurance and get nothing.
‘I know they have got to go somewhere – but this seems to be the wrong place. You don’t really see them apart from when they are walking down the road or playing football on the car park round the back.’
A 38-year-old IT worker on the estate who did not want to give his name said he only discovered the hotel had asylum seekers in it after he moved into his rented home last October.
He said: ‘A week after we moved in, we had guys knocking on our door asking for money and cigarettes. I had my mountain bike worth £400 stolen from my back garden last Christmas.
‘A delivery driver saw it begin taken by some of the guys from the hotel. I later saw a couple of them with my bike outside the hotel, so I called police.
‘It took them a couple of days to come out and they got my bike back, but the front wheel was missing, the forks were bent and an attempt had been made to spray it black. The police did not want to get involved and said they could not do anything.
‘Sometimes I can smell cannabis wafting over from the hotel car park. I just don’t feel comfortable living here any more.’
Another resident who did not want to be named, said: ‘I feel sorry for the migrant guys because they are young boys who have got nothing to do all day.
‘You just see them walking around the car park and heading down the road to the garage. I suppose I am keeping my distance from them slightly because you don’t know who they are.
‘My partner and I have been here for a year and it was nice having the hotel on our doorstep. My family stayed there last summer when they came to visit, and they said it was really good – but now they can’t stay there.
‘The police came round recently saying there had been reports of people in a garden, and they advised us to get a Ring doorbell for extra security which I guess we will now do.’
Another resident who moved to the estate last May said: ‘We were looking forward to popping over for a drink in the hotel, but when we went over we found the bar was shut.
‘Last October we started seeing these guys hanging around and it was all over social media that asylum seekers had been moved in.’
Typical were asylum seekers staying at the three-star Grosvenor Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, who told of their unhappiness about their living arrangements
Single woman ( in green trousers on right) is Albanian Entla Qazolli, 51, who complains of lack of communication and friendships because ‘not many of us speak English so good’
An eight-months pregnant Iranian new-mum-to-be (no name) with her four-year-old son who grumbles she is not being given adequate antenatal care and meds to be given ‘a pram and baby clothes’
Saudia Arabian single woman Qadeer, 32, who fears or her safety and claims racist taunts are made against her by hotel staff who she says are ‘annoying me.’
Villagers in Great Hallingbury have now gotten used to the sight of groups of men from the hotel, most of them aged in their 20s and 30s, wandering down the road which has no pavement or street lighting.
Retired hairdresser Pauline Mills, 70, who lives opposite said: ‘I have been here for more than 20 years and used to go to the hotel a lot for functions and parties.
‘It was beautiful inside with lots of antiques and wooden panelling on the walls. There was a lovely a la carte restaurant and a chef from the Savoy who used to do special meals in the basement for groups of 12 people or so.
‘It went downhill a bit after it changed hands a few years ago. I didn’t realise anything was happening until I drove past and saw all the beautiful antique furniture being removed.
‘A day or two later I saw metal beds and cabinets being unloaded outside. Then I heard from neighbours that asylum seekers had moved in.
‘It seems silly to put them there because there are so few facilities for them here. My main concern is that there is no footpaths, street lights or a bus route, so they just walk up and down the road.
‘They go to the garage at the end of the road in groups of four or five – but it is very dangerous, especially when they wear dark clothing.’
Close to a country house hotel in the Midlands now used to house Afghan refugees the change of usage has seen staff laid off from jobs and saw couples having to hastily rearrange or postpone their weddings – while business and leisure guests were also been turned away and the hotel ceased to answer calls.
A nearby florist, who spoke on condition of anonymity told us: ‘I lost all future business when they changed the usage.
‘All weddings were cancelled, not just ones booked but indefinitely. Staff lost their jobs. We had a day’s notice. It literally shut its doors. The staff had no idea what was going on, it was a real shock. I lost a huge chunk of my business and have struggled ever since.’
Home Office figures have revealed how its contractors including Serco have taken over 363 hotels in England, 20 in Northern Ireland, ten in Scotland and two in Wales.
Many have been taken over at short notice, leading to the cancellation of weddings, parties and functions, as well as future bookings for paying guests.
Contractors involved in taking over and running hotels, providing meals and security for asylum seekers, have seen their profits surge.
Figures disclosed this week that the Home Office paid £20.6m to a Leeds-based firm called Calder Conferences to book hotels in 2021 which increased to £97m in 2022.
We revealed yesterday how its director Debbie Hoban has seen her annual remuneration increase from £230,000 to £2.2m – and now lives a luxury lifestyle from her £3m farmhouse home.
Back in Stratford an Iranian mother who is eight-months-pregnant, and has a four-year-old son living with her at the hotel, claimed to have not been given adequate antenatal care and medication, and had not yet received a pram and baby clothes.
‘The room is much too small and cramped for all of us. We have two beds pushed together for four. It is not adequate accommodation,’ one man said
The migrants complained that the food at the hotel was bad and unhealthy
Another mother who was with her young daughter, said: ‘We’re bored here. The rooms are too small and the food is bad’
The pauper’s portions of food migrants are given with many complaining ‘It is junk food, all potatoes, and it will make us fat, chips with every meal, no greens, no fruit. It’s unhealthy.’
Asylum seekers say they are bored, the food is bad and it is ‘like living in jail’ in three and four-star hotels
‘There’s chips, chips, chips with every meal. no greens, no fruit. It is unhealthy.’ one person said
Another mother who was with her young daughter, said: ‘We’re bored here. The rooms are too small and the food is bad. It is like being in a jail.’
A family of four from Sri Lanka said they were all squashed into a double room and being fed unhealthy meals such as chicken nuggets and chips while being denied proper fresh fruit and vegetables.
The father Kavinda, who is with his wife, six-year-old daughter and two-and-a-half-year-old son, said: ‘The room is much too small and cramped for all of us. We have two beds pushed together for four. It is not adequate accommodation.’
Kavinda who is entitled to apply for a work permit as he has been in the UK for more than a year while his family’s application is considered, said: ‘I want to work so I can stand on my own two feet and support my family.
‘I’ve trying to get a work permit but it’s taking too long because there is a backlog of applications. It is not fair.’
Around 150 refugees – from counties including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Albania and Vietnam – are living at the hotel, just a five minute walk from the picturesque, historic town centre and 16th century birthplace of revered playwright William Shakespeare.
Each person – children included – receives £8 pocket money per week and are given three meals a day.
They are allowed to come and go as they please between meal times, and the children are given several hours schooling each day.
Kavinda – who declined to be fully named – added: ‘We get £32 a week as a family but that is not enough. I want to work and earn my own money.’
Some of the asylum seekers speak very poor or no English and can only communicate with hotel staff by writing messages on translation apps on their mobile phones.
An older single woman, who suffers from mental health issues, claimed that nothing was being done to help her and living in a hotel with many others was ‘very bad for my wellbeing.’
Speaking, with the help of Kavinda translating, she said: ‘The food here is awful. It’s junk food, all potatoes and it will make us fat. There’s chips, chips, chips with every meal. no greens, no fruit. It is unhealthy.’
Another woman said: ‘We feel unsafe here, uncared for and unloved. We thought and hoped it would be better.’
Entla Qazolli, 51, from Albania who is also staying at the hotel complained of lack of communication and friendships because ‘not many of us speak English so good’.
She added: ‘I’ve been over here for a year and a half, and in this hotel for two months. I am still waiting for permission to work here and get a house. That is my dream. I want a job as a carer or cleaner.
‘I have English lessons three times a week but my English is not very good. I can speak it a bit but not write.
Cramped rooms for families of four and more described by migrants as ‘inadequate’
Iraqi mum Neshteman Tahir and her eight-year-old son said: ‘We all hate it and we are shut in our rooms all day with nothing to do. The hotel is very, very bad. We want a proper home.’
‘I want to cook but we can’t. I miss it. Many people here have problems, and they are not very happy. One day is good but most days here are bad.
‘I miss my mother and my sister. They are back in Albania. I am all alone here. I try to make friends but it is difficult.’
A Saudi Arabian single woman Qadeer, 32, told how she feared for her safety and claimed racial taunts were made against her by hotel staff, saying they were ‘always annoying me.’
She said: ‘We have to follow the hotel order, we cannot do as we please, and I do not feel safe.
‘My bedroom can be locked from the inside but any hotel worker can get into it with a key swipe from the outside. I am a single Muslim girl and I don’t feel safe here.’
During MailOnline’s visit, confused asylum seekers were forced to congregate in the front yard of the hotel for 15 minutes for a fire alarm drill before filing back inside.
Local residents in Ashford, Kent, seemed sympathetic to the plight of migrants in two Holiday Inns, one in the centre of the town and the other in a village a few miles north.
Robert Jolly, 80, who is originally from Scotland and has lived in the town since 1987 called for military barracks to be refurbished for asylum seekers.
Speaking as he voluntarily picked up litter in the streets around Ashford’s central Holiday Inn, he said: ‘Asylum seekers shouldn’t be placed in that hotel – that hotel should be for visitors.
‘The Government ought to build temporary accommodation or redevelop military barracks to make them suitable for people seeking asylum.
‘I know they’ve done that before at the Napier Barracks but you need to make them at least habitable – these are human beings for goodness sake.
‘I’m not against immigration and I find some of the rhetoric from the Government extremely crass. We are not being ‘invaded’ and haven’t been invaded since 1066. The Spanish and Germans tried, but failed.
‘We need migrants to work on the farms, in industry and so on and I wonder whether these large groups of men coming over could be found work in these sectors.
‘It would be much more beneficial to everyone than sticking them in a Holiday Inn in Ashford, where nothing much ever goes on.’
Grandmother Sarah Standing, 72, said: ‘I saw ten to 15 mothers and children coming out of the doctors surgery opposite the hotel a few months ago and thought to myself, ‘How on earth did they all get an appointment’ because at the time I hadn’t seen a doctor for years.
‘They were all dressed really nicely and the children were very well behaved and polite and asked if they could stroke my dog.
‘I said they needed to check with their mums. A few of the mums could speak English and they were very charming.
‘The first I actually knew they were actually seeking asylum was when they crossed the road and all went into the Holiday Inn.
‘They’ve caused me no problems at all, and I have no issue with them being at the hotel, but it did surprise me that they’d all got an appointment to see the doctors as it’s not always so easy to get one.’
But Andrew Richards, 61, who lived close to the hotel said the arrival of asylum seekers had coincided with ‘reports of problems in the area’.
He said: ‘I heard over Christmas that there were groups of foreign men pestering drunk women in Ashford town centre and trying to take advantage of them.
‘A few locals had apparently stepped in to make sure everything was OK, and they were the ones warned by the police to behave.
‘You don’t know where is and where isn’t safe in Ashford at the moment.’
Jennifer Ferris, 38, said: ‘As far as the hotel itself is concerned, there’s not been any issues as far as I know…but in town, it’s a different story.
‘I’ve stopped my 13-year-old daughter from going to Victoria Park in Ashford because there’s been a lot of reports of gangs made up of foreign men robbing people of their phones and causing trouble.
‘My brother was beaten up by a migrant gang in the park about five years ago so I’ve told her to stay away from there. I don’t want anything happening to her. I’ve steered clear of the place for a while.
‘I know people want to come to this country and it’s absolutely right that we look after them as best we can but for a private company to be making so much money putting asylum seekers in hotels, I think is just wrong.’
Elsewhere in the country, there have been demonstrations outside hotels with some organised or fuelled by far-right extremists.
One Iranian mother claimed to have not been given adequate antenatal care and medication, and had not yet received a pram and baby clothes.
Another mother said: ‘We’re bored here’ and ‘it is like being in a jail’
One of the most violent was outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside, on the night of February 10 when police had fireworks and other missiles hurled at them by a mob which smashed a police van and set fire to it.
The protest is thought to have been largely sparked by a 30-second video of an incident three days earlier when a 15-year-old schoolgirl was accosted by a 25-year-old migrant who asked for her phone number.
Last week Merseyside Police said asylum seekers living in the hotel and staff working there, as well as non-white people in the area had been subjected to attacks and abuse since the protest.
The force said it was investigating ten incidents including ‘assaults, malicious communications and verbal abuse, both of staff, residents and people wrongly assumed to be connected to the premises’.
Resident Terry Pollard, 57, said: ‘Times are tough for everyone at the moment and the Government is spending millions of pounds a day to house asylum seekers in hotels.
‘The only ones benefiting from this are the hotel companies, which you can’t blame for taking the money.’
Mr Pollard said he would prefer it if migrants were housed on old military bases.
He added: ‘If it costs less to house asylum seekers at an RAF base, I think it should be done. Any money saved should then go to help people who are struggling. Using hotels isn’t ideal for anyone.’
A demonstration against asylum seekers being housed at the Novotel in Ipswich, Suffolk, was attended by around a dozen people last Saturday after inflammatory adverts for it on social media.
The demonstration was dwarfed by a counter-protest involving more than 100 people showing their support for asylum seekers, chanting slogans such as: ‘Say it loud. Say it clear. Refugees are welcome here.’
The two groups faced each other across the road outside the hotel as asylum seekers peered out through windows in their rooms.
Ipswich’s parliamentary Labour candidate Jack Abbott who joined the protest tweeted: ‘Today the far right came to Ipswich. They sought to sow division and spread their hate.
‘Instead, people in the town united, stood up to their bigotry and said: ‘this is not who we are. Ipswich is a welcoming, diverse and inclusive town and hope will always defeat hatred.’
But Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt accused counter-protesters of ‘virtue signalling’ and refusing to acknowledge whether there should be any ‘cap’ on migrants entering the country.
He said in a Facebook post: ‘I’m strongly of the view that the majority of my constituents strongly oppose the Novotel for accommodating those who have illegally entered our country from France.
‘I also believe strongly that the vast majority strongly believe in robust measures to tackle illegal immigration.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain.
‘The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6 million a day.
‘The Home Office is committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and limit the burden on the taxpayer.’