LONDON: Asylum seekers in the UK face being held in camps on abandoned military bases and on disused ferries under government plans, reports say.
Sources told the BBC that former bases in Lincolnshire and Essex are to be confirmed next week and the first people will be moved in within weeks. An announcement on old ferries is also due in the same time frame, the sources said.
The plans come as the government pushes the “Illegal Migration Bill” through parliament, which will ban people arriving in small boats from across the Channel from ever applying for asylum, and confirm plans to send some of them to Rwanda with no chance of return. The law has been condemned by rights groups and international bodies alike.
According to reports, the planned camps on military bases would house between 1,500 to 2,000 migrants. They would be used initially for new arrivals rather than relocating the nearly 51,000 asylum seekers being housed in hundreds of hotels at a reported cost of £6.8 million a day.
The proposals, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, have not been denied by government sources.
A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC that the government had been “upfront about the unprecedented pressure being placed on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.”
In 2018, 300 people reached Britain via the channel. The number rose to 45,000 last year.
The spokesperson added: “We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.”
Hotels housing asylum seekers have been targeted for protests by far-right groups, including in Knowsley, Merseyside, where a crowd fought police and set fire to a police van last month.
Last week residents near the former RAF Scampton base in Lincolnshire, heard that the site could house about 1,500 people, including in temporary cabins on the former runway.
Meanwhile, Europe’s top human rights body wrote to British MPs on Monday urging them to prevent the passing of the “Illegal Migration Bill”, saying it was “incompatible with the UK’s international obligations.”
The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, said in the letter that the bill created a “clear and direct tension with well-established and fundamental human rights standards.”