The asylum seekers staying in Ipswich's Novotel are still "in limbo" almost a year since the hotel was taken over by the Home Office, a refugee charity has said.

The Novotel hotel in Greyfriars Road was taken over by the Home Office in October last year, despite Ipswich Borough Council battling the decision in the High Court.

It caused controversy as it left many of the staff facing losing their jobs.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt raised the issue in the House of Commons last week, saying anger over the Home Office takeover had "not abated".

Martin Simmonds of Suffolk Refugee Support said that most of the asylum seekers who were accommodated in the town centre hotel are still waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, which, if granted, would allow them to live and work in the UK. 

Mr Simmonds said: "In those 11 months, a number of people have arrived, many of them struggling with trauma and disorientation.  

"They've often undergone difficult experiences in their home country, witnessed horrific things, experienced unpleasant journeys, and then they arrive here into a system that is very difficult to understand, with very little volition on what they can do next." 

The Suffolk Refugee Support team has been providing asylum seekers with emergency support, including helping them understand some of the processes and the Home Office system.   

Mr Simmonds added: "Over the course of the year, we've seen people arriving with fresh trauma and fewer possessions; they are arriving quite disorientated and with urgent needs.   

READ MORE: University of Suffolk opened up for Novotel asylum seekers

"They are stuck in limbo for months, sometimes years, not knowing when they'll get a decision on their asylum claim, not knowing when they might be moved on to other accommodation. 

"It would make a big difference to our work if Home Office systems functioned more effectively.    

"We spend a great deal of time and resources filling in the gaps where processes have failed or people have not received the urgent support they are entitled to." 

Mr Simmonds added that there is a lack of good-quality legal representation.

He also said asylum seekers located in Novotel would like to contribute to the local community, but the laws do not allow them to take on jobs. 

Mr Simmonds said: "The asylum seekers are not generally allowed to work. They can only volunteer in specific roles, and so they do. 

"They currently receive £9.58 per week, but there are long delays even for that small amount." 

Mr Simmonds emphasises the support from the Ipswich community - from places of worship and sports clubs to community groups and individuals stepping up with "countless acts of kindness". 

Local sports clubs provide a range of sports activities for the people accommodated in Novotel, including a weekly football group supported by the Ipswich Town Foundation, as well as boxing at Murrayside Community Centre and cricket classes organised through Suffolk Cricket. 

The Suffolk Refugee Support team recognises that it is good for the mental health of the asylum seekers to provide them with physical activities as well as English classes, which are the "absolute key" to people integrating and being able to do something constructive with their time while they are in the backlog. 

When speaking in Parliament, Mr Hunt called for a timeline of when the Novotel building would be returned to its intended use.

He added: "Looking at that hotel, a blaze of life, knowing there are people who broke immigration laws were getting three meals a day at during the cost-of-living crisis causes immense anger." 

Ipswich Star: MP Tom Hunt, House of CommonsMP Tom Hunt, House of Commons (Image: House of Commons)

Jack Abbott, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, said in response: "Conservatives have broken the asylum system. Rather than taking responsibility and getting a grip of the issue, they are fighting amongst themselves.     

"Chasing headlines is not a substitute for processing claims and clearing the asylum backlog, and the incompetence shown by this useless government means that hotels like the Novotel are having to be used at huge cost to the taxpayer.  

Ipswich Star: Jack Abbott, Labour candidate for Ipswich, NewsquestJack Abbott, Labour candidate for Ipswich, Newsquest (Image: Newsquest)

"I would say to the Conservatives: end the soundbites, get a grip, and back Labour’s plan to fix this chaos."  

Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council are no longer involved in the situation. 

Ipswich Borough Council leader Neil MacDonald said: "We look forward to the return of the Novotel to its normal use, supporting the town’s economy, but have not been given any indication of when that might happen".