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Hotel Chain Voted UK’s Worst Makes Tens of Millions a Year from Housing Asylum Seekers in Harmful Conditions

Andrew Kersley reports on the massive profits being made by the hotel tycoon dubbed the ‘Asylum King’.

The Britannia Hotel, Manchester. Photo: Pat Hurst/PA Images/Alamy

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A hotel chain voted the UK’s worst has made tens of millions of pounds and brought itself back from financial uncertainty after it became one of the Home Office’s main sources of accommodation for asylum seekers, Byline Times can reveal.

Britannia Hotels has made over £150m over the last decade, which it has spent as one of the main suppliers of hotel accommodation for asylum seekers.

The firm has been voted the UK’s worst hotel chain for the last 11 years running.

Byline Times spoke to asylum seekers housed in Britannia Hotels for months on end who described refugees attempting suicide, living in fear of harassment in dirty rooms; conditions so bad that one charity said were actively “harming people’s health”.

Making Nearly £100,000 a day

Between 2002-2003 and 2013-2014, the company made just over £23m, or an average of £1.9m a year in pre-tax profits. The company even registered pre-tax losses in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and listed profits of less than £1m in 2006 and 2009.

But things started to change for the chain in 2014-2015, which is also, as it happens, the year it was first reported in the press that the chain was beginning to house asylum seekers en-masse for the Home Office.

That year the company’s profits shot up to £14.2m, a 441% increase.

Since then, the number of asylum seekers staying in Britannia Hotels has only increased, with some reports suggesting at least 17 of the chain’s hotels have been block booked out on behalf of the government.

And so – bar a dip during Covid – in the years since 2014 that figure has only increased. In its last accounts – for 2021-2022 – the company posted a record profit of £33.3m, or £91,232 in profit a day.


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Britannia Hotels is owned by octogenarian hotel tycoon Alex Langsam, whose has been dubbed the “Asylum King” thanks to the record profits made from housing asylum seekers helped by a rise of 63,214 in asylum applications received by the government between 2010 and 2022.

Britannia is just one of dozens of private firms involved in some way in managing and running the UK’s burgeoning and largely outsourced asylum seeker system, many of whom have been able to make huge profits in recent years while being paid to help manage the asylum system..

The problem has only been worsened by a huge backlog in the government processing of asylum claims; as of last month, 98,599 people were still awaiting a decision, many of whom are living in hotels.

“It’s scandalous that the Government allows private companies to make hundreds of millions of pounds of profit a year,” said Tim Naor Hilton, the chief executive of Refugee Action.

“This gravy train must stop. We should fund councils to run a not-for-profit asylum system, so every penny of this public money is spent protecting refugees and strengthening services for all of us.”

‘When We go out We Find People Shouting at Us, Saying they Want to Kill Us’

Imran* has spent the best part of a year in a Britannia Hotel in Manchester. In that time his wife has repeatedly attempted suicide due to mental health problems he claims are worsened by their prolonged hotel stay.

“The last time she tried to jump out of a window. I caught up and saved her luckily, but she’s depressed and can’t come out of the room,” he recalls. “She has had miscarriages twice while we’ve been in this hotel.”

When he complained about the incident, he claims he was asked to share medical records with Migrant Help – the service that handles complaints on behalf of the Home Office and Serco, which manages asylum seeker accommodation in the North West – but says he never heard back.

It’s just one of a litany of complaints he’s made over the last few months – from the food, which he says is often the same dishes for days on end, to insensitivity from staff, who repeatedly enter their room, without asking, when his wife is not dressed or wearing a hijab.

But not only is the couple still in the hotel almost a year after arriving in the UK, but he says they haven’t even been given an indication by the Home Office as to when they might expect to leave.

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Omar* compares the hotel to a prison. Forced to flee his home country of Egypt as a political refugee from the country’s military and government, he ended up in the same hotel as Imran where he’s been for more than six months now.

Just weeks ago, Omar says a group of protestors turned up outside the hotel attempting to film and identify asylum seekers living there.

The threat of far-right harassment outside the hotel has left him and his family scared of leaving, he says. “You have to stay in the hotel like it’s a prison,” he says. “When we go out we find people shouting at us, saying they want to kill us.”

Byline Times has seen videos showing badly leaking ceilings and uncleared food and clothes littering corridors in the hotel.

But Omar and Imran’s concerns were not just about the cleanliness, but the sheer amount of time spent having to live in a cramped hotel bedroom at all.

It’s worth noting that for homeless families living in council temporary accommodation, there is a six-week limit on how long they can spend living in hotels or B&Bs. While that limit is not always stuck to, it’s an acknowledgement of just how huge an impact prolonged living in a hotel can have.

As just one example, a child of another family in the hotel was hospitalised recently with full-body burns after they spilt a kettle filled with boiling water on themselves while the parents were attending to their three other children in their room.


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Serco said that it did not recognise Imran and Omar’s accounts of poor conditions in the hotel, and specifically refuted claims put forward about the timeliness of responses to complaints.

A spokesman for the company said: “The safety and well-being of the asylum seekers in our care is our top priority and the hotel accommodation that we use is regularly checked by our team and monitored by the Home Office to ensure that it is meeting all requirements. 

“All complaints that are raised with us are properly and fully investigated and where necessary changes are implemented. The Serco team is working extremely hard to move people into dispersed social housing as rapidly as possible.”

The Home Office said that they had been unable to investigate these claims due to the anonymity of those we interviewed, but it stressed that the government continues to “provide safe accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute”.

A spokesperson added that “there are established procedures which providers are contractually obliged to follow to manage the safety, security and well-being of those they accommodate and where concerns are raised about any aspect of the service delivered in a hotel, we work with the provider to ensure these concerns are addressed”.

Britannia Hotels did not respond to a request for comment.

*Names have been changed at the request of our interviewees

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