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LONDON: The UK is spending £1.2million ($1.6million) every day to house asylum seekers in hotels, the government revealed on Wednesday.
Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted her department was “struggling” to find permanent accommodation for them.
Tricia Hayes, deputy permanent secretary at the Home Office, told MPs on Wednesday that 25,000 refugees were living in hotels in the UK. Most of them had reached the country by crossing the English Channel in small boats.
This figure is three times higher than three years ago.
In addition, another 12,000 Afghan refugees have been held in hotels for more than six months since their evacuation from Kabul. Only 4,000 of the 16,000 evacuees received permanent accommodation.
This means that a total of around 37,000 people are waiting for long-term accommodation provided by government and local authorities across the country. Councils across Britain have struggled to find enough free accommodation for the growing number of people who need permanent accommodation.
Patel told the Home Affairs Committee that housing asylum seekers in hotels was ‘inadequate policy’, costing the UK £1.2m a day, or £438m per year.
The Home Secretary hopes his controversial Citizenship and Borders Bill will ease the pressure by detaining them in dedicated facilities, some of them overseas.
The bill aims to end the practice of accommodating asylum seekers in hotels by using new reception centers instead.
Patel told MPs: ‘We are absolutely struggling with local authorities to find accommodation. We also want to make sure we can get people to work. We want them to rebuild their lives here. We have a resettlement minister leading this file, but we are still desperately trying to bring together different components. »
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said living in a hotel was “unsuitable” for people who had fled war and persecution.
“Every day we see men, women and children struggling to get the clothes, food and health care they need while stuck in hotels for many months, causing them great distress,” he said. “It’s a failed strategy that has an astronomical cost to the taxpayer. We want to work with the government to help people find suitable housing so they can start to rebuild their lives.
The Refugee Council, however, does not support Patel’s solution outlined in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently making its way through the UK’s legislative process, calling it “hugely destructive legislation”, which would see people housed in “inappropriate”. and unsuitable reception centres.
He also denounced plans to accommodate refugees and migrants in offshore centres, which the government is pushing forward “despite the large body of evidence showing how damaging this approach would be”.
Immigration is a burning issue in British politics, and a rise in migrant arrivals from mainland Europe via the English Channel has further heightened concern among some sections of society about the number of people entering the country.
The issue of Channel crossings has also caused tension between London and Paris. The French and British governments have traded barbs in recent days over who holds responsibility for the growing number of people drowning trying to make the crossing.