Asylum Seekers to Be Housed in Dumfries Hotel After Home Office Deal

The Mercure Dumfries Cargenholm House Hotel is set to provide temporary accommodation for asylum seekers following an agreement with the Home Office.

The hotel, which opened in January after a £3 million refurbishment, will be hosting 61 male immigrants for up to a year, starting from August 14.

The arrangement comes as a response to the “significant pressures” faced by the Home Office in processing asylum claims. Local politicians were informed about the contract details via email and Dumfries and Galloway Council published a Questions and Answers page on their website.

The council, on the webpage, states “Neither Dumfries and Galloway Council nor any of our community planning partners are involved in the decision-making or management of the hotel contract, so all requests for further information should be directed to the Home Office or Mears.”

Typically, the Home Office contractor Mears arranges contingency accommodation, often in hotels, as a short-term solution until more permanent dispersal accommodation is found elsewhere in the UK. This practice can occur with little or no prior notice to local public sector partners regarding the selection of hotels or the arrival of asylum seekers.

The asylum seekers arriving in Dumfries will receive £9.10 per week, and Mears will provide a shuttle bus service to and from the town. While they are expected to return to the hotel at night, they are free to spend their time in the community during the day. Any overnight absence from the hotel will be reported to the Home Office.

The origin countries of the men arriving in Dumfries are not specified, but the latest UK Government statistics indicate that the highest numbers of asylum seekers come from Iran, Albania, and Iraq.

During their first 12 months in the UK, asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are unable to access local housing assistance. The practice of asylum dispersal ensures that asylum seekers are accommodated more equitably across the UK while their asylum claims are processed.

Regarding the contingency accommodation, Mears is responsible for the welfare of the asylum seekers, offering support through on-site welfare managers and a 24/7 helpline. The hotel has 24/7 security provisions in place, but it’s crucial to emphasize that asylum seekers are not detained under immigration law and are free to leave the hotel during the day.

Asylum seekers’ limited funds of £9.10 per week reflect their inability to work or claim benefits during the first year of their asylum application. To support their well-being, Mears organizes activities and provides facilities such as television and Wi-Fi. Faith support is made available, and dietary needs are taken into consideration.

Asylum seekers in the UK are individuals who have applied for asylum and are awaiting a decision from the Home Office. There are currently approximately 150,000 people across the UK with asylum-seeker status. Women and girls make up about half of any asylum-seeking population, and about 75% of those who claim asylum are granted refugee status.

Asylum seekers enter the UK irregularly because they cannot apply for asylum from outside the country, and there is no specific asylum visa. The majority of asylum seekers are hosted in neighbouring countries to their country of origin, and the UK does not have more asylum seekers and refugees than other countries.

Various factors influence asylum seekers’ choice of destination, such as family ties, language, job opportunities, and perceptions of safety and tolerance. In the UK, asylum seekers live with friends or family, in independent asylum housing, or in asylum contingency hotels.

Local charities and third-sector organizations are expected to play a role in providing volunteering opportunities and accepting donations to support asylum seekers during their stay in the UK.