ASYLUM seekers have now left a Hereford hotel, leaving the future of the establishment uncertain.

The Three Counties Hotel in Hereford is no longer being used to house asylum seekers, with its occupants having left.

The hotel was used as accommodation for asylum seekers, with Herefordshire Council having previously said it would be used until the end of March.

Most of the asylum seekers had already left by February 2, with all now having left the hotel.

Moved on

They are being moved on to what the Home Office calls "dispersal housing" in other towns and cities in the West Midlands.

Niki Nakamura from Hereford City of Sanctuary, which supports refugees, said: "We are feeling raw about losing these guys. They have become friends. 

"They are being scattered to the winds to live in shared houses.

"Some are going to bigger cities where there are support networks but I had a call from one who was in tears in a tiny room in an empty house in Wednesbury. He was so disappointed. There will be others joining him and he will find his feet but this dispersal business is miserable."

Happy times in Hereford

Many of the asylum seekers had integrated with the community in Hereford, including joining football sides and doing volunteer work.

One asylum seeker, Abdi, said: "People have been kind. In future when we hear the word Hereford so many happy things will come to our minds."

READ MORE: Asylum seekers in Hereford play last football game

Asylum seekers first moved in to the Three Counties Hotel in March last year, when the hotel signed a contract with the Home Office. The hotel was operated by Serco, a Home Office contractor, with Herefordshire Council working with local partners and the community and voluntary sector to support the asylum seekers coming to the county.

The asylum seekers, all of whom were men, were accommodated on a full-board basis, with support on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, along with security staff.

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This prompted some local concerns at the time, dividing opinion and proving controversial.

North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin had been one of those to speak out, saying Herefordshire Council was not robust enough to support the asylum seekers.

Hotel future uncertain

Now, a question mark hangs over the future of the Three Counties Hotel, which is in Belmont, Hereford.

Lidl has its sights set on the hotel for a new supermarket in Hereford, with the potential for the Three Counties to be demolished. 

The target determination date for a decision on Lidl's planning application was February 8, with the application having been submitted in June last year.

The application proposes a new Lidl supermarket with associated access, parking, servicing, drainage and landscaping.

Once up and running the new shop would provide 40 full-time-equivalent jobs, the company says.

Herefordshire Council has said that it does not expect the county to host any more asylum seekers now that the Three Counties, along with the Talbot Hotel in Leominster, have stopped being used for this.


Asylum seekers at the Three Counties Hotel: As it happened

  • January 2023: Lidl submitted an application for a shop to replace the Three Counties Hotel, which would involve the hotel being demolished. The decision on the application has still not been made, and has remained with planners at the council while the hotel has been used for asylum seekers.
  • February 2023: The news was broken that the hotel would become home to 120 asylum seekers under Government plans, as the Home Office signed a 12-month contract with the Three Counties Hotel. A letter sent to Herefordshire Council by the Home Office said a record number of asylum seekers were being supported in Britain due to the "unprecedented number of individuals claiming asylum".
  • March 2023: The Three Counties closed as a hotel and began accommodating asylum seekers on a full-board basis, with security staff and support onsite. Herefordshire Council confirmed it was not involved in the arrangement and that it was managed by the Home Office's contractor Serco.
  • June 2023: Lidl revised its plan for the shop which would replace the Three Counties, with comments on the application opening for people to object or support it.
  • August 2023: The Talbot Hotel in Leominster took in an undisclosed number of families, making it the second hotel in Herefordshire to start housing asylum seekers.
  • October 2023: Asylum seekers at the Talbot in Leominster were forced to leave due to safety concerns, and returned later that month.
  • December 2023: Herefordshire Council confirmed that the Three Counties and Talbot hotels would stop taking in asylum seekers and that all of those being housed would leave in early 2024. 
  • January 2024: Asylum seekers at the Talbot in Leominster left.
  • February 2024: Asylum seekers at the Three Counties Hotel left.