In September 2022 the Home Office informed us that they intended to use one of our hotels as accommodation for asylum seekers. Our full statement about this is online. On Monday 7 November we found out that another hotel in Torbay will be used to accommodate asylum seekers as well. Our statement on this can be found on our news webpages.

The asylum seekers have now arrived safely at both hotels. Please be mindful that not all of these individuals will understand English and they may have had a very difficult experience before arriving here in the Bay. We would be grateful for your patience and understanding at what will be a worrying and confusing time for them.

We know you will have a lot of questions about this situation, how this happened so quickly and what the council’s involvement is. We have put together a number of responses to some frequently asked questions below which will hopefully help in understanding what’s going on. We will continue to update these.

Why have the asylum seekers been placed in the hotel?

  • The Home Office recently told us that they intended to use hotels in Paignton and Torquay as temporary and emergency response accommodation. This is due to the number of boats that cross the English Channel continuing to rise and the use of hotels is happening across the country and not just in Torbay.
  • This provision will be managed by a Home Office contractor called Ready Homes.

Was Torbay Council asked if the hotel could be used for this?

  • No. The Home Office makes the decision on which properties are used.

Are the council receiving any funding for this?

  • We have received limited funding from the Home Office but it is substantially less than the overall cost to the Council, in particular our Children’s Services department. Doesn’t the hotel need to change its use through a Planning application?

Doesn’t the hotel need to change its use through a Planning application?

  • Our understanding is that the hotel does need to apply for a change of use, but we have been told by Ready Homes that an application to change its use is not needed. A Planning Contravention Notice (PCN) was served on the hotel in September which was the first stage of enforcement proceedings. A response has been received and reviewed by our Planning department and a site visit was undertaken. We have written to the owners explaining that we feel it is considered that a material change of use from a Hotel (C1 use) to an Asylum Seekers Hostel (sui generis) has occurred and that they are advised to submit a retrospective planning application to change the use of the premises.

Will other hotels in Torbay be used?

  • When we heard about the first hotel we were assured by the Home Office that there wouldn’t be another hotel.
  • On Monday 7 November we heard another hotel in the Bay would be stepped up. We were not given any notification about this.
  • We have provided evidence to the Home Office that these hotels are putting increased pressure on our already busy and full services, particularly our Children’s Service’s department. We issued a statement and you can read this on our news webpages . We have also provided feedback that we have received from our wider community and local businesses.

Will the people being accommodated be single persons or families?

  • The council does not have this information, it is held by the Home Office.
  • Who stays at the hotel is based on need and pressures within the asylum system.

How long will they remain in Torbay?

  • At the moment we do not know how long the hotels will be used. People will be moved out as other accommodation in the asylum system is made available to them. This means that the people staying in the hotels will change over time.
  • We have asked for clarity on how long the contracts will be in place.

Will they be given permanent housing in Torbay?

  • After the hotel they will be moved on to other temporary dispersed accommodation provided by central government whilst their claim for asylum is considered. This could be anywhere in the country. This accommodation is not provided by the council.

Will the people have access to local health services?

  • Yes, they will be able to access local health services in the same way as any person visiting Torbay on a temporary basis would have.
  • Our Public Health team are in discussions with local health providers and NHS Devon to manage this.

Will school-age asylum seekers be placed in local schools?

  • Were children to be placed in Torbay they would be given access to education. This could be through attendance at local schools and colleges or through other ways depending upon the needs of those placed here.

What additional security has been put in place?

  • The contractor Ready Homes are providing additional staff to ensure appropriate 24-hour, 7 days a week, on-site security cover.

What is being done to ensure their behaviour inside and outside of the hotel?

  • The contractor who is overseeing the hotel has a manager on-site and we are in daily contact with them and have raised concerns about any anti-social behaviour that is reported to us.
  • The local Police are aware that the hotel is being used to accommodate asylum seekers and is working closely with us and partner agencies.
  • The Police will deal with any reports or concerns as they would normally do so. The Police have spoken to other areas who have accommodated asylum seekers and feedback has been that there has been low levels of crime and disorder during their stay.
  • If you are experiencing any concerns about noise and anti-social behaviour from the hotel, please email this to where it will be raised with the hotel and relevant partners.
  • If you have a crime to report, please contact the Police in the usual ways by either calling 101 or using their online reporting form. Only use 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger or if the crime is happening right now.
  • If you have any questions about the provision of the hotel, please contact the Home Office by emailing or calling 020 7035 4848.

How long will the asylum seekers have been in the country and where will they have come from?

  • We do not know this, and the Home Office does not comment on individual cases.
  • Some of the asylum seekers may be newly arrived in the UK and others may have been in the UK for some time whilst awaiting a decision on their asylum claim.
  • The number of refugees and people seeking asylum goes up and down, depending on what is happening in the world. Conflict in several countries has swelled recent figures, for example.
  • However, the UK has not been ‘flooded’ by those looking for safety. In fact, only 0.2 per cent of the population are refugees or asylum seekers.
  • Most asylum seekers flee over their nearest border, where they are likely to live in camps.
  • This can be seen in the case of Syria. Of the 6.7 million Syrian refugees globally, a staggering 4.6 million are being hosted by its neighbours – Turkey and Lebanon.
  • Asylum seekers come from many parts of the world. Government statistics suggest that for the year ending September 2021 highest numbers came from Iran, Eritrea, Albania, Iraq and Syria. The nationality of those residing at the hotel will therefore vary.
  • The nationality of those residing at the hotel will therefore vary

Can asylum seekers claim welfare benefits?

  • Asylum seekers are not able to claim welfare benefits, nor are they allowed to work.
  • Asylum seekers in hotel accommodation where food and some services are provided, currently receive £8 per week.

Why are most asylum seekers male?

  • They are not.
  • According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), women and girls make up about half of any asylum seeking, refugee or internally displaced population.
  • However, women and children may be left in refugee camps in neighbouring countries while the men leave the camp to take the risky and often deadly trip to another country.
  • Families that travel together in a big group have a harder time with the logistics. Women and children are also at much higher risk of sexual abuse, violence and exploitation by traffickers and organised criminal gangs on the route. Therefore, families may stay behind and wait until the men have applied for asylum and the rest of their family will then follow in a much safer way. This is often facilitated by the British Red Cross.

Why don’t asylum seekers stay in the first safe country?

  • Most do stay in the first safe country. 80% of the world’s asylum seekers and refugees are living in countries neighbouring their country of origin.
  • The number one reason that asylum seekers give for continuing their journey to the UK is that they have family ties here. This covers over 50% of cases. Other factors that people will take into account are more practical, for example, if you speak the language, you have more chance of being able to find a job and you can navigate everyday tasks like understanding public transport or going shopping.
  • It is also not uncommon for asylum seekers to also state their belief that the UK is a safe, tolerant and democratic country and refer to previous links between their own country and the UK.
  • There is no legal requirement for an asylum seeker to make their claim in any particular country.

What about bogus/illegal asylum seekers?

  • There is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seeker.
  • Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country, that has signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim.
  • It is a legal process.