UK govt says cost of keeping refugees in hotels four times higher than first announced

Update UK govt says cost of keeping refugees in hotels four times higher than first announced
The Crowne Plaza Hotel near Heathrow Airport is used to house asylum seekers. (Getty Images)
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Updated 03 February 2022

UK govt says cost of keeping refugees in hotels four times higher than first announced

UK govt says cost of keeping refugees in hotels four times higher than first announced
  • Price of accommodating 37,000 refugees, many of them Afghans, is over $2.3 billion a year
  • Controversial new bill could end practice of temporary hotel accommodation, instead sending them to dedicated centers

LONDON: The British government has revealed that the true cost of holding tens of thousands of migrants in hotels is almost four times the figure it first told MPs.

On Wednesday, Tricia Hayes, the deputy permanent secretary at the Home Office, said the cost of accommodating the asylum-seekers was £1.2 million ($1.6 million) a day. But the department today released a clarification, saying the actual figure was £4.6 million a day, or about $2.31 billion a year.

The government’s initial figure represented only the cost of hosting about 12,000 evacuated Afghans and did not include the other 25,000 refugees and asylum-seekers living in hotels up and down the country.

About 16,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan but only about 4,000 have so far been found permanent homes. That means the total number of people in government-funded hotel accommodation is about 37,000, or about three times what it was three years ago.

Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted that her department was “struggling” to find the asylum-seekers permanent homes.

Patel told the home affairs committee that housing asylum seekers in hotels was an “inadequate policy,” that it is costing the UK £1.2m a day, or £438 million a year. 

She told the home affairs committee that housing asylum-seekers in hotels was an “inadequate policy.” The home secretary hopes that her controversial Nationality and Borders Bill will ease the pressure by holding them in dedicated facilities — some of them offshore.

Patel told MPs: “We are absolutely struggling with local authorities finding housing accommodation. Also we want to make sure that we can move people into work. We want them to rebuild their lives here. We have a minister for resettlement that leads on this, but we are desperately still trying to pull together different component parts.”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said that 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 healthcare they need when marooned in hotels for many months, causing them great distress,” he said. “It’s a failed strategy that comes at an astronomical cost to the taxpayer. We want to work with the government to support people into 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 procedure, calling it a “hugely destructive piece of legislation,” that would see people housed in “inappropriate and unsuitable reception centers.” 

It also denounced plans to house refugees and migrants in offshore centers, which the government is pushing forward with “despite the large body of evidence showing how damaging this approach would be.”

Immigration is a hot-button issue in British politics, and an increase in migrant arrivals from mainland Europe via the English Channel has further raised concern among some sections of society about the number of people coming into the country.

The Channel crossings issue 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.