Refugees in Cumbria - Asylum seekers

When someone flees their own country, for example due to war, they can claim asylum as they arrive in another country. An asylum seeker will then have their claim for asylum assessed. 

The Home Office manages where asylum seekers are housed whilst this assessment is made. 

Why have the asylum seekers been placed in hotels in Cumbria?

The Home Office have told the Council that they intend to use hotels in Cumbria for temporary accommodation of asylum seekers due to the significant pressures currently in the national asylum system.

The provision will be managed by Serco, who are the Home Office contractor for the North West region.

Was the Council asked if the hotels could be used for this purpose?

The Council is not asked if the hotels can be used in this way, it is a decision made by the Home Office.

Are the council receiving any funding for this?

No, the council are not receiving any funding for this. The Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) are specific schemes for people who have been evacuated from Afghanistan. The people placed in the hotel are asylum seekers and are not part of the ARAP or ACRS schemes.

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 hotels is based on need and pressures within the asylum system. The council has been informed it is likely to be single persons.

How long will they remain?

The council has been advised by the Home Office and Serco that the initial period is for 6 weeks or longer and 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 hotel will change over time.

Will they be given permanent housing in Cumbria?

After staying in the hotels they will be moved on to other temporary dispersed accommodation managed by Serco whilst their claim for asylum is considered. This will not be in Cumbria. It could be another location in the North West, the Midlands or the East of England. These are the contract areas managed by Serco.

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 Cumbria on a temporary basis would have.

The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) manages this with local health services.

The NHS locally is given funding from the Home Office for this.

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

Were children to be placed in temporary accommodation they would be given access to education. This could be through temporary attendance at local schools or through other ways dependent upon the needs of those placed here.

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

The council does not have this information 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.

Asylum seekers come from many parts of the world. Government statistics suggest that for the year ending March 2021 highest numbers came from Iran, Albania, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Are the asylum seekers allowed to leave the accommodation and if so, do they know about guidelines for Coronavirus?

Asylum seekers are permitted to leave their accommodation.

Information is provided in a number of different languages to explain any restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

What additional security has been put in place?

Serco are providing additional staff to ensure appropriate 24-hour on-site cover to ensure the safety of people living at the hotels.

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

Cumbria Constabulary is aware the hotels are being used to accommodate asylum seekers and is working closely with partner agencies.

Officers will deal with any reports or concerns as they would normally do so.

Can asylum seekers claim welfare benefits?

Asylum seekers are not able to claim welfare benefits and are not allowed to work.

Asylum seekers in the hotel accommodation will receive three meals a day and an £8 per week allowance.  

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.

What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?

Asylum seekers

When someone flees their own country, for example due to war, they can claim asylum as they arrive in another country.

An asylum seeker will then have their claim for asylum assessed (which can be a lengthy process, during which they have limited rights).

Once submitted, an asylum request will have one of three outcomes:

  • Full refugee status (indefinite leave to remain).
  • Temporary leave to remain for between 1-5 years 
  • A refusal, applicants may appeal against a refusal and can remain in the UK whilst appealing. If the appeal is unsuccessful they must return to their home country.

Until they receive a decision as to whether or not they are a refugee, they are known as an asylum seeker.

The 1951 Refugee Convention guarantees anyone the right to apply for asylum in another country that has also signed the Convention. It also guarantees that they can remain there until their claim has been processed.

Cases can sometimes be open for a significant amount of time, meaning that asylum seekers and their children can be uncertain about whether they will be granted refugee status for a long time. 


Refugees are people who have been granted asylum and have the right to stay in the UK. This means they have the right to work and live in the UK and can access benefits and social housing. 

What happens when someone gets a decision on their asylum claim?

If someone receives a positive decision and is recognised by the Government as a refugee, they have 28 days until their support from the Home Office ceases and they are evicted from their Home Office accommodation. They need to find alternative accommodation, find work, or establish a welfare benefits claim. 

Those who get a negative decision from the Home Office ("refused asylum seekers") are expected by the Home Office to leave the UK. Households without children lose support and are evicted after 21 days.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) are children and young people who are seeking asylum in the UK but who have been separated from their parents or carers. While their claim is processed, they are cared for by a local authority.

Cumbria County Council agreed to offer support to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC), as part of the Government's National Transfer Scheme. This has been established to help resettle children seeking asylum in areas such as Kent and unaccompanied asylum seeking children leaving Calais or other European Countries.

Young, unaccompanied refugees are vulnerable and may be traumatised following their experience. Some may need a foster place in a loving home as they start to rebuild their lives.

For more information about how you could support children and young people in need, visit our Fostering website.

Please note that not all children who need a foster place will be refugees.

Please contact your local community refugee action group:

Carlisle Refugee Action Group 

Furness Refugee Support

West Cumbria Refugee Support