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Where Do Asylum Seekers Live in the UK?

In recent years, the accommodation of asylum seekers in the UK has become a major topic of political debate and discourse. As the number of arrivals continues to surge, the government has sought cost-effective solutions to provide appropriate housing whilst processing applications – some of which has been extremely controversial. In this article, we'll explore where refugees live while awaiting asylum decisions in the UK and shed light on accommodation options for unaccompanied refugee minors.
Where Do Asylum Seekers Live While Waiting?

There are various asylum seeker accommodation options available in the UK. However, it is important to note that given the rapidly evolving situation in the English channel, circumstances may change unexpectedly:

Hotels and hostels

The first port of call for most refugees in Britain is a hotel or hostel. These are closed to the general public, as they’ve been fully booked by the UK government to specifically cater to refugees. While the government has sought to move away from this approach – last year, the cost of housing asylum seekers soared to £1.9 billion – it is still considered by many to be the most compassionate option.

Former military bases

As part of its greater ambition to revamp the asylum system, the government has also started to utilise former RAF bases to accommodate refugees. According to the Home Office, the idea is to enable asylum seekers to “be in basic, safe and secure accommodation appropriate for this purpose, whilst providing value for money for the taxpayer.” As of April 2024, two surplus military sites are currently being employed – in Scampton and Wethersfield – as well as a non-military site in Bexhill, despite a legal challenge from local authorities. These are run by contractors with Home Office oversight.


No accommodation option elicits more passionate debate than the Bibby Stockholm, a barge-turned-hostel, and one of the more unconventional solutions employed by the government to house asylum seekers. Moored off the coast of Dorset, this floating hostel can reportedly house 500 men.
At the start of the year, the Bibby Stockholm was engulfed in a media firestorm after a 27-year-old asylum applicant was found dead aboard the barge in an apparent suicide. This has led many to question whether the policy violates human rights. Nevertheless, according to a recent YouGov poll, 56 percent of the British public support the use of barges to house asylum seekers.


Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are crying out for help. Stop talking about it.

Longer Term Accommodation

Fortunately, asylum seekers can also be moved to proper flats or houses. This is usually the case for families with children who have been offered longer-term accommodation. During these stays, asylum seekers are relieved of some financial obligations, including utility bills and rent, though they are unable to choose where they will live.

Foster Care

Beyond these accommodation options, fostering agencies also play an important role in supporting unaccompanied refugee minors in the UK. This is done with the help of the local authority. In fact, while just 16 percent of refugee children are normally placed in independent living, 38 percent are placed in foster care.

Trauma-informed care

Organisations such as Compass Fostering provide specialised support for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. This means that foster families undergo extensive training to meet the complex needs of refugee kids, including cultural sensitivity and trauma-informed care. Child refugees in foster care are also provided with comprehensive access to healthcare, education and legal assistance, helping children adjust to their new environment and eventually rebuild their lives.

Beyond Accommodation

The accommodation of asylum seekers in the UK continues to evolve, with unconventional approaches like floating hostels and former military sites being implemented to address the current crisis. Yet despite this evolving landscape, the need for foster care remains consistent. After all, beyond accommodation, foster carers contribute to the holistic well-being and development of children as they navigate the challenges of displacement and resettlement. If you are interested in fostering with Compass, do not hesitate to contact us today. Together, we can give every child the chance of a better future.