LONDON: A proposed overhaul of the UK migration system under Home Secretary Priti Patel will cost almost twice as much as the current system, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill, refugee charities have warned.
As part of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which aims to tackle the long-term issue of migrant crossings across the English Channel, about £1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) would be spent on a third-country processing system.
In total, the proposed changes would cost about £2.7 billion per year, almost double the £1.4 billion paid in 2019-2020. However, the bill must pass through the House of Lords before it is enacted.
Further calculations by Together With Refugees, a coalition group that includes the British Red Cross and the Refugee Council, revealed that under the new plan, £717 million per year will be spent on new reception centers to house the predicted 10,000 asylum seekers arriving in Britain annually.
A further £432 million per year are needed to jail migrants who cross the Channel in small vessels, says the report titled “A Bill at what price?”
And once decisions have been made on individual asylum seekers, the cost to deport those with failed applications to safe countries would cost a further £117 million per year, on top of the £1.5 million needed for bureaucratic processing.
Home Office officials told MPs earlier this month that the government is paying £4.7 million per day to accommodate the 25,000 asylum seekers and 12,000 Afghan refugees currently in Britain.
Gulwali Passarlay, an asylum seeker who arrived in Britain from Afghanistan in the back of a truck in 2007 as a 13-year-old, warned that the bill was “inhumane.”
He added: “If I had arrived with the bill in place … I could have been put in prison for up to four years. I could have been sent back to a country I passed through to claim asylum, even though they were not safe for me and I was arrested and treated badly.
“I could have been separated from my brother and uncle and sent to offshore detention facilities, where I could be stranded in limbo for years.”
Passarlay, now an author and campaigner, said: “It will mean more deaths in the Channel, further limbo for people waiting for their decision, and people separated overseas waiting to be processed. It will cause a lot more hardship and pain.”
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “The government’s reforms will see vast amounts of public money wasted on cruelly pushing away and criminalizing men, women and children desperately in need of safety and protection. They won’t deliver the humane, fair, efficient and orderly asylum system that is needed.”
A Home Office spokesperson said the figures in the report are “pure speculation,” adding: “While lives are being lost in the Channel, we will look at all options available to us.”