UK government calls for extra £2.6bn for asylum-seeker hotels

Home Secretary James Cleverly has asked Parliament to approve the funding

UK Home Secretary James Cleverly has asked for more funding to cover the cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels. Reuters
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The UK government has asked for an extra £2.6 billion ($3.7 billion) in funding after spending on hotels for asylum seekers was higher than expected.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has made the formal request for the cash after a shortfall last year when his predecessor, Suella Braverman, held the post.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Cleverly said the “net cash requirement for the year exceeds” that provided for this financial year.

“Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £2.6 billion will be sought in a supplementary estimate for Home Office,” he said.

“Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £2.6 billion will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.”

The cost of housing asylum seekers has become a key political issue for the Conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, with spending reaching an estimated £8 million a day.

There is currently a backlog of about 98,000 people waiting for a decision on whether they will be granted refugee status in the UK.

Diana Johnson, the chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, said she is concerned about the emergence of a shortfall so late in the financial year.

She said the committee has raised the issue of missing asylum funding from its spending estimate during the course of the year.

“It appears that this shortfall has now resulted in an emergency cash requirement of £2.6 billion,” she said.

“I'm concerned that this additional cash requirement has arisen at this point in the financial year.

“To avoid this happening again, from now on the Home Office must include within its main estimate its best forecast for asylum expenditure. I’ll be writing to the Home Secretary to request further information and raising it when this is debated in Parliament."

Yvette Cooper, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow home secretary, said the Conservative government has “completely bust the budget of the Home Office through staggering incompetence and chaos but the taxpayer is paying the price”.

“Their failure to clear the asylum backlog, end the use of hotels for asylum seekers stuck in their broken asylum system, or sort out proper contracts, has left them with an eye-watering £2.6 billion black hole that the British taxpayer will need to fill,” she said.

“Time and again they go for gimmicks rather than ever getting a grip.”

The Home Office said in a statement: “Financial advances through contingencies funds are planned for each year to enable departments to deliver services with unpredictable final costs, such as the asylum system.

“This is a routine request and will enable the Home Office to continue to keep the public and the UK’s borders safe.”

Updated: February 02, 2024, 11:46 AM