Asylum seekers are suing the Home Office over standard of full-board hotels and other accommodation
ASYLUM seekers have launched legal action against the Home Office amid claims taxpayer-funded full-board hotels and other accommodation they have been housed in are not up to scratch, and in one case "grossly inadequate."
At least five families, none of whom can be identified for legal reasons, have lodged civil claims that have come before the High Court for initial hearings since May.
The Home Office refused to release the number of how many similar claims are underway.
However, it confirmed it has already had to offer alternative housing to some families after losing some cases, while saying it has also successfully defended other claims.
It comes after it emerged earlier this month that it cost the taxpayer almost £1b to house asylum seekers in a single year with £922m spent on hotel accommodation for them in the financial year 2021-22.
With unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers illegally arriving, many via small boats across the Channel, the Home Office has been in some cases booking entire hotels to house new migrants for lengthy periods while their asylum claims are considered.
Each person is also provided with three meals a day, all bills paid for, a weekly allowance and access to health and social care all on the taxpayer.
Although the majority claim to have fled from war-torn countries or oppressive regimes before making their way across Europe for people smugglers to get them into the country, many have argued the accommodation provided does not meet their needs.
Lawyers have mounted a number of claims at the court alleging the housing has had a negative impact on their client's lives.
In a judgement granting anonymity to one family, following a hearing on June 6, The Honourable Mrs Justice Karen Steyn said the case concerned a woman and her four children, including a disabled daughter.
She wrote: "The first claimant and her children are asylum-seekers who are accommodated by the defendant pursuant to section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1995.
"The claimants allege the conditions in the hotel accommodation where they have been accommodated since August 12 2021 are grossly inadequate for the family and particularly for the third claimant’s needs."
In a judgement following a separate preliminary hearing last month, Mr Justice Neil Calver wrote that the claimant, said she has serious mental health issues and contends that Home Secretary Priti Patel has acted "unlawfully in that the accommodation provided in Feltham (one small hotel room for a family of four in a location far from the claimant’s support services and her children’s school) is inadequate."
The applicant claimed this was in breach of Home Office policy and her human rights as it "fails to consider the welfare of her three children."
The same month Deputy High Court Judge Richard Clayton wrote in an interim judgement: "The claimant is an Afghan national who challenges by judicial review the defendant’s failure to provide suitable accommodation for her family.
"The failure has a serious adverse impact on the family."
Two other claims before the court in May complained of "overcrowded" accommodation and delays in being moved to longer-term housing.
All five cases were adjourned for further hearings.
Alp Mehmet, chairman of campaign group MigrationWatch UK, questioned how the civil action was being funded and said it seemed like "biting the hand that feeds you."
He said: “This smacks of being born of legal opportunism similar to adverts in holding centres and prisons offering advice on how to mount legal challenges to removal.
"Needless to say, legal aid would underpin such action. Perhaps those complaining are doing so having been led to believe by their traffickers that they would be provided with houses on arrival. Is this also a case of biting the hand that’s feeding you?”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers in hotel accommodation are provided with three meals a day, with all bills paid for as well as a weekly allowance.
“The New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken asylum system to make it fair but firm, enabling us to offer support to those most in need while returning those without a genuine right to remain in the UK.
"We are dealing with an unprecedented increase in asylum cases but despite this we ensure that safe accommodation is provided to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute.
"Asylum seekers have access to health and social care services from the point of arrival in the UK and asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute can access financial support while their asylum claims are being assessed.
"All asylum seekers in hotels are provided with full board accommodation with three meals a day served as well as all other essentials, including cash payments where eligible.
"Those in full-board accommodation receive the £8.24 weekly payment to cover essential living items. This is intended to cover clothing, non-prescription medicine and travel.
"No asylum seeker in asylum contingency accommodation is detained and they are free to come and go as they please.
"The new fairer asylum dispersal model, in which all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales became asylum dispersal areas, will reduce the use of hotels.
"The Nationality and Borders Act will fix the broken asylum system across the UK, which is costing the taxpayer almost £5 million a day on hotels."