Ministers unveil plan to slash eye-watering £6m-a-day hotel bill for migrants

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Ministers unveil plan to slash eye-watering £6m-a-day hotel bill for migrants

Ministers vowed to put the 'interests of the British people' first today as they unveiled plans to house Channel migrants on old military bases and ev

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Ministers vowed to put the ‘interests of the British people’ first today as they unveiled plans to house Channel migrants on old military bases and even in barges.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick laid out details of large-scale sites that will be used to accommodate arrivals in the UK, in a bid to cut the massive £6million-a-day-bill for hotels. 

He said sites in Essex, East Sussex, Lincolnshire, and Rishi Sunak‘s North Yorks constituency had been earmarked.  

He also said government is ‘continuing to explore the possibility of accommodating migrants on vessels’ – such as barges and cruise ships.

But Labour said Mr Jenrick was merely chasing ‘headlines’, saying the Home Office had already concluded that floating living quarters would be even more expensive.

Tory MPs also objected to proposals for sites in their own constituencies, with threats of legal action. 

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick laid out details of large-scale sites that will be used to accommodate arrivals in the UK, in a bid to cut the eye-watering £6million-a-day-bill for hotels

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick laid out details of large-scale sites that will be used to accommodate arrivals in the UK, in a bid to cut the eye-watering £6million-a-day-bill for hotels

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick laid out details of large-scale sites that will be used to accommodate arrivals in the UK, in a bid to cut the eye-watering £6million-a-day-bill for hotels

Offshore barges, similar to those used by construction crews (pictured), could be used to house migrants

Offshore barges, similar to those used by construction crews (pictured), could be used to house migrants

Offshore barges, similar to those used by construction crews (pictured), could be used to house migrants

Those on the vessels would be allowed on to land for a limited time for exercise, according to reports (file picture)

Those on the vessels would be allowed on to land for a limited time for exercise, according to reports (file picture)

Those on the vessels would be allowed on to land for a limited time for exercise, according to reports (file picture) 

Deputy PM Dominic Raab dismissed worries the idea would break international law

Deputy PM Dominic Raab dismissed worries the idea would break international law

Deputy PM Dominic Raab dismissed worries the idea would break international law

Flanked by Home Secretary Suella Braverman in the Commons, Mr Jenrick said: ‘We must not elevate the wellbeing of illegal migrants above those of the British people. It is in their interests that we are sent here.’

Making a Commons statement on illegal migration, he said: ‘The sheer number of small boats have overwhelmed our asylum system and forced the Government to place asylum seekers in hotels.

‘These hotels take valuable assets from communities and place pressures on local public services.

‘Seaside towns have lost tourist trade, weddings have been cancelled and local councils have had their resources diverted to manage them and the hardworking British taxpayer has been left to foot the eye-watering £2.3billion a year bill.’

Mr Jenrick said he was ‘announcing the first tranche of sites we will set up to provide basic accommodation at scale’.

‘The Government will use military sites being disposed of in Essex and Lincolnshire, and a separate site in East Sussex.

‘These will be scaled up over the coming months and will collectively provide accommodation to several thousands asylum seekers through repurposed barrack blocks and portacabins.’

Scotland and Netherlands have used cruise ships to house arrivals 

The UK would not be the first European country to turn to floating options to cope with rising numbers of arrivals. 

A cruise ship has been used to accommodate around 1,200 Ukrainians in Glasgow over the past six months.

However, this was billed by the Scottish government as a temporary measure while they were secured other housing. 

The MS Ambition is set to leave the city at the end of next week, with fewer than 50 people now said to be on board.

The Netherlands hired two cruise ships, the MS Galaxy and the Silja Europa, to accommodate at least 1,000 asylum seekers each last summer.

The latter vessel was previously used to put up police officers during the G7 summit in Cornwall in 2021.

They were said to feature education and day-care facilities on board.

The Silja Europa has now apparently departed for other duties.  

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‘In addition, the Prime Minister is showing leadership on this issue by bringing forward proposals to provide accommodation at barracks in Catterick Garrison in his constituency.

‘And we are continuing to explore the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels, as they are in Scotland and in the Netherlands.’

SNP MP Alison Thewliss could be heard to heckling that ‘it is not the same!’ 

Home Office source stress no deals for floating acommodation have been sealed – but Deputy PM Dominic Raab earlier dismissed worries it would break international law. 

Countries such as the Netherlands have used ships and the Scottish government brought in a cruise ship temporarily to put up Ukrainian refugees.  

But Labour and the Lib Dems questioned whether the proposals could meet ‘minimum housing standards’, branding them ‘surreal’ and ‘gimmicky’.   

The main plank of the statement from Mr Jenrick today is set to be deploying sites including an Essex airfield and RAF Scampton, home of the Dambusters squadron in the Second World War.

However, the proposals are likely to cause problems in local areas, with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly unhappy about a scheme in his own constituency.     

It is understood that ministers are keen to pursue ‘floating accommodation’, such as disused cruise ships, ferries and barges.

Supporters of the concept say it is already used by other European countries, and Scotland deployed a cruise ship for Ukrainian arrivals awaiting housing – although it is now almost empty. 

Mr Raab described barges as ‘one possible option’, telling Sky News that the use of hotels was acting as a ‘perverse incentive’ to encourage crossings.

He also insisted Mr Cleverly ‘fully supports this policy’ despite the opposition to the base in his constituency being used.

Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast there is a ‘huge cost to the taxpayer’ of hotel use, which he argued is acting as a ‘pull factor’.

‘We will look at the whole range of options, low-cost accommodation, ex-Army barracks and, where it’s appropriate, as has been used elsewhere in Europe, and I think in Scotland as well, vessels, if they can safely and responsibly be used,’ he said.

But the Refugee Council said it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the plans, saying the the suggested accommodation is ‘entirely unsuitable’ to the needs of asylum seekers.

Enver Solomon, the charity’s chief executive, said: ‘These sites are wholly inadequate places to house vulnerable men, women and children who have come to our country in search of safety. 

‘We must ensure that people fleeing war, conflict and persecution can access safe, dignified, and appropriate accommodation while in the UK asylum system.

‘They are also unworkable and will add yet more cost and chaos to the system.’

Steve Valdez-Symonds of Amnesty International UK said: ‘The consequences of dismal accommodation – subjecting people to prolonged squalor, social exclusion, mental and physical ill health, even outbreaks of fatal disease – keep being ignored.

‘Ministers need to urgently focus on fairly and efficiently deciding people’s asylum claims while securing suitable accommodation in communities – but they recklessly continue to do the precise opposite at great human and financial cost.’

Mr Jenrick told the Cabinet yesterday the average cost of housing a migrant in a hotel had reached £150 a night, more than £6million a day in total.

‘He made it clear that the cost is completely unsustainable,’ a source said. ‘We need to start getting people out of expensive hotels and into more appropriate accommodation.’

The Silja Europa was hired by the Dutch to accommodate around a thousand asylum seekers last summer. It was previously used to put up police officers at the G7 summit in Cornwall in 2021 (pictured)

The Silja Europa was hired by the Dutch to accommodate around a thousand asylum seekers last summer. It was previously used to put up police officers at the G7 summit in Cornwall in 2021 (pictured)

The Silja Europa was hired by the Dutch to accommodate around a thousand asylum seekers last summer. It was previously used to put up police officers at the G7 summit in Cornwall in 2021 (pictured) 

A surge in Channel migrants, coupled with a snail’s-pace system for processing them, has led to the Home Office scouring the country for rooms. 

And the latest figures suggest that taxpayers are funding accommodation for more than 50,000 people in almost 400 hotels.

A report by an official watchdog today warns that £3.5billion of foreign aid money was spent on dealing with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK last year – nearly £10million a day – with the Home Office being slammed for its profligacy.

Sources said Mr Jenrick hoped to start moving new arrivals to military sites within weeks. 

Those already in hotels will be moved out as more accommodation comes on stream. 

Disused barracks, mobile homes and converted shipping containers will also be used.

A government source said the accommodation would be ‘appropriate’ and would have access to medical facilities.

Anti-migrant protesters at a demonstration outside the Beresford Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, on March 26. The hotel is housing around 200 asylum seekers

Anti-migrant protesters at a demonstration outside the Beresford Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, on March 26. The hotel is housing around 200 asylum seekers

Anti-migrant protesters at a demonstration outside the Beresford Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, on March 26. The hotel is housing around 200 asylum seekers

Pictured: A former prison ship housing foreign workers at Grimsby docks could be similar to those the government wants to put migrants in

Pictured: A former prison ship housing foreign workers at Grimsby docks could be similar to those the government wants to put migrants in

Pictured: A former prison ship housing foreign workers at Grimsby docks could be similar to those the government wants to put migrants in

Plans to turn RAF Scampton (pictured) into a migrant detention centre have sparked fury among locals

Plans to turn RAF Scampton (pictured) into a migrant detention centre have sparked fury among locals

Plans to turn RAF Scampton (pictured) into a migrant detention centre have sparked fury among locals

RAF Scampton, which was home to the Dambusters' 617 Squadron (pictured here in 1943 at the airbase) has been listed as a site that could be turned into a migrant centre

RAF Scampton, which was home to the Dambusters' 617 Squadron (pictured here in 1943 at the airbase) has been listed as a site that could be turned into a migrant centre

RAF Scampton, which was home to the Dambusters’ 617 Squadron (pictured here in 1943 at the airbase) has been listed as a site that could be turned into a migrant centre 

The insider added: ‘We think there will be an added deterrent effect simply from the fact that if you come here illegally you are no longer going to be put up in a Hilton and left to chill out for months on end.’

Mr Sunak proposed putting Channel migrants on cruise ships during last summer’s Tory leadership contest, saying it would help end the ‘hotel farce’. 

The idea was dropped when he became PM last October but is back on the agenda as ministers scramble to secure large-scale facilities. 

The UK would not be the first European country to turn to floating options to cope with rising numbers of migrants.   

A cruise ship has been used to accommodate around 1,200 Ukrainians in Glasgow over the past six months.

However, this was billed by the Scottish government as a temporary measure while they were secured other housing. 

The MS Ambition is set to leave the city at the end of next week, with fewer than 50 people now said to be on board.

The Netherlands hired two cruise ships, the MS Galaxy and the Silja Europa, to accommodate at least 1,000 asylum seekers each last summer.

The latter vessel was previously used to put up police officers during the G7 summit in Cornwall in 2021.

They are said to feature education and day-care facilities on board. 

The Silja Europa has now apparently departed for other duties. 

The push for floating accommodation reflects concerns about the level of local opposition to the use of military sites.

The proposal to use the former Dambusters base has triggered outrage, with a council in Lincolnshire seeking listed status for part of the site to block it.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has indicated he supports opposition to housing thousands of migrants at a former military base at Wethersfield in his Essex constituency. The council there is seeking an injunction.

Mr Sunak yesterday defended plans to deport to Rwanda anyone crossing the Channel illegally. In evidence to the Commons liaison committee, he said it was vital to tackle people-smuggling gangs by breaking the link between boarding a dinghy in France and starting a new life in the UK.

The PM said those crossing the Channel illegally would be detained and swiftly removed, either to their home country or to a safe third country. 

Former Tory immigration minister Caroline Nokes questioned whether under-18s should be included in the removals policy.

She has likened Mr Sunak’s ‘horrendous’ asylum plans to Donald Trump’s ‘caging of children’. 

But the PM hit back, saying: ‘It’s important that we don’t inadvertently create a policy that incentivises people to bring children who wouldn’t otherwise come here.’

He played down hopes that flights to Rwanda could start by the summer, saying they could not begin until legal challenges brought by campaigners had been exhausted.

Ministers have seen off a series of rebellions on the Illegal Migration Bill which is going through parliament. 

However, Conservative MPs on the Right of the party are pushing for assurances that the European Court of Human Rights will not be able to block the Rwanda asylum scheme.

Rishi Sunak told MPs today it was important government policy doesn't 'incentivise people to bring children who wouldn't otherwise come here'

Rishi Sunak told MPs today it was important government policy doesn't 'incentivise people to bring children who wouldn't otherwise come here'

Rishi Sunak told MPs today it was important government policy doesn’t ‘incentivise people to bring children who wouldn’t otherwise come here’

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