Casually tapping on their smartphones and smoking in the sunshine, the young men gathered outside the once grand, but now slightly downmarket, hotel appeared carefree and relaxed.
Their untroubled, if somewhat bored, demeanour is perhaps no surprise.
Having successfully reached the UK as asylum seekers, they are now guests of the British taxpayer with free accommodation, three meals a day and a £39.60 weekly spending allowance.
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday can reveal that at least 20 – and perhaps as many as 50 – hotels across Britain are being used to house migrants who have made the perilous crossing on small boats across the English Channel.
The accommodation, which includes four-star rated hotels, is part of a £4billion ten-year contract between the Home Office and various outsourcing companies.
The deal is shrouded in secrecy with Government officials refusing to say precisely how many hotels are being used and how many asylum seekers are staying in them.
In Hull, where these photographs were taken outside the Royal Hotel last week, three local MPs and the council have objected to the city being used to accommodate migrants, saying it was ‘totally unsuitable for the vulnerable individuals’.
Hull’s imposing railway hotel, which hosted Queen Victoria in 1854 and featured in one of Philip Larkin’s early poems, is a short walk to the local shisha lounge and the nearest corner shop.
This is the daily routine for many recently arrived migrants who, having travelled from war-torn states, wait as so-called ‘boat-chasing’ lawyers seek to convince the UK Government they are genuine refugees fleeing persecution and not economic migrants.
Burly security guards wearing face masks prevent casual visitors setting foot inside the Grade II listed hotel, making it clear that asylum-seekers are the only guests. It is likely that they will be staying on Humberside for some time.
The Home Office boasts of returning ‘more than 155’ migrants since small boat arrivals began in October 2018 – including 14 to France and Germany last week – but that is just a fraction of the more than 4,500 migrants who have arrived so far this year alone.
The migrants in Hull, who were seen clutching what appeared to be official paperwork, have nowhere to go as they must reside at the hotel and are prevented from seeking employment.
Some loitered listlessly in the lobby and surrounding streets, whiling away the hours until their next meal in the restaurant. Such depressing scenes are being repeated at hotels across the country and come amid a growing political storm over the Government’s failure to stamp out illegal immigration.
The numbers of migrants illegally entering the UK has more than doubled in the last eight years, from 20,000 to 48,000, while the National Audit Office recently highlighted a staggering 96 per cent jump in asylum seekers living in initial, short-term, accommodation.
The estimated monthly cost to accommodate each of them has also increased by 28 per cent from £437 to £560.
The Channel crisis may have given Home Secretary Priti Patel a headache, but it has provided much-needed revenue for hoteliers, including the Royal Hotel’s owner Alex Langsam.
The businessman, who has been dubbed the Asylum King, has already made millions from Home Office contracts to house refugees in budget hotels such as those in his Britannia chain. He entered the Sunday Times Rich List in 2016 with a personal fortune of £220million.
Since then the company’s income has continued to rise. At least eight Britannia hotels are understood to be occupied by migrants. Last night, the company declined to comment.
The Novotel hotel chain is also understood to have also reached lucrative agreements with the Home Office to house migrants.
Last week, large groups of young men of North African appearance were seen strolling around outside the Novotel at Newcastle Airport, which boasts a fitness centre and an indoor heated swimming pool.
Washing was also seen hanging from windows. Best Western and Travelodge have also apparently secured deals to provide lodgings and meals for recently arrived asylum seekers.
A spokesperson for Best Western said it ‘did not judge’ its guests, rather it ‘tries to help them’. Travelodge said it could not disclose information about customers due to the Data Protection Act.
The Home Office last night insisted it was working with French authorities to make the crossChannel route unviable and to crack down on organised criminal gangs facilitating these crossings.
Officials added that hotels are only ever a ‘temporary measure’ and that migrants will be moved to longer term accommodation when it is possible to do so.
A spokesman said: ‘The UK has a statutory obligation to provide destitute asylum seekers with accommodation and support whilst their application for asylum is being considered. Any temporary measures are kept under review and we are working with local authorities across the UK to secure the suitable longer term accommodation that is required.’