UK government housing 16,000 asylum seekers in temporary accommodation

A total of 64,000 asylum seekers are being cared for in Britain

Migrants onboard a UK Border Force vessel  are brought into port of Dover, in southern England. AFP
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Up to 16,000 asylum seekers are staying in temporary accommodation including hotels, hostels and disused military barracks across the UK while they await longer-term housing.

The overall number of people staying in asylum-related facilities has tripled in the past 10 years to reach 64,000, following a record-breaking year for migrant boats crossing the English Channel.

Since the start of the year, 27,958 people made the perilous voyage across the busy shipping route in small boats in the hope of a new life in Britain, data from Migration Watch UK shows.

This is an increase of 230 per cent from last year, when 8,461 people landed on UK shores after travelling from northern France.

The group, which campaigns against illegal migration, estimates that by spring 2022 the cost of supporting migrants will hit £850 million.

Their estimate is based on the UK Home Office's projection that the number of migrants being housed in public-funded accommodation will reach 80,000 by early next year.

A baby child among migrants helped ashore from a UK Border Force vessel  in Dover. AFP

It is significantly higher than the prediction put forward by the National Audit Office, which said 70,000 asylum seekers would need support by 2029.

The current estimated cost of caring for the arrivals is about £744 million per year, £500 million more than in 2018.

Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “This is another shocking reminder of the government’s abject failure to control our borders, having needlessly allowed the situation in the Channel to get completely out of control.

“The costs have skyrocketed in tandem with the abuse, while the taxpayer foots the bill. No wonder public disquiet is growing as border mismanagement increases. What a mess.”

This year’s record-breaking influx of migrants was attributed to several factors including mild weather at the crossing point and economic woes in Iran and Iraq which pushed many to leave and journey to Europe.

In the past three months, about 10,900 people arrived in the UK in dinghies, around 90 per cent of whom claimed asylum on arrival.

The recent drowning of 27 migrants in the Channel prompted a renewed public debate about the illegal practice and soured relations between London and Paris.

The UK criticised France for not doing enough to stop smugglers exploiting migrants and proposed joint patrols in each other’s waters.

France blamed Britain, and rejected its offer for joint efforts to tackle the problem.

The high number of migrants crossing to Britain from mainland Europe has become a political headache for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The 2016 campaign to leave the EU, on which Mr Johnson staked his political career, promised to “take back control” of Britain's borders.

But officials have since admitted that the number of asylum seekers sent back to the EU has fallen sharply, with Britain now left out of a returns deal between member states.

Britain has promised France £54 million ($72 million) to try to stop the crossings.

Tim Naor Hilton, the chief executive of Refugee Action, said the UK government was “wasting money” by trying to tighten its borders.

“Years of ministerial mismanagement” mean that “any time there is added pressure on the system it cannot cope”, he said.

“The Home Office is taking longer than ever to decide people's claims. These unacceptable delays mean refugees are staying longer in the asylum system and leaves the department struggling to find accommodation.”

Updated: December 22, 2021, 9:24 AM