LONDON: UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said that in some cases it was “fair and reasonable” to ask asylum-seekers to share rooms in hotels.
Speaking to the BBC’s “Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg” program, Jenrick said that his obligation was to the British public rather than migrants and that he had to look after taxpayers.
The interview came after dozens asylum-seekers, who were offered accommodation in a London hotel last week, refused to enter after being told to sleep four to a room.
In a letter to the home secretary, the head of Westminster Council, Adam Huq, voiced his concern that people who “are likely to have been through significant and traumatic events” were being made to share “an inappropriately sized room with multiple strangers.”
According to Jenrick, the government did not want to use hotels since it was “taking away valuable assets for the local business community ... people’s weddings and personal events had to be canceled.
“But where we are using them, it's right that we get good value for money for the taxpayer,” the minister told the BBC.
“And so, if single adult males can share a room, and it’s legal to do so, which will obviously depend on the size of the accommodation, then we’ll ask people to do that,” he added.
Jenrick denied that it was government policy to house asylum-seekers and migrants in shared rooms.
He also suggested people were lodging illegitimate asylum claims, telling the BBC that the UK’s system was “riddled with abuse” and the country could not be allowed to be “perceived as a soft touch.”
The government is required by law to provide basic accommodation to asylum-seekers who are not permitted to work while their claim is being processed.
Typically, asylum-seekers would be accommodated in hotels or hostels for a few weeks before being transferred to long-term housing
However, with a rise in asylum-seekers and a backlog of processing claims, hotels are increasingly being used to provide temporary housing.
According to the BBC, the use of hotels is costing almost £7 million ($8.7 million) a day, which has sparked criticism among many Conservative MPs.
In response to Jenrick’s interview, the UK’s Labour party responded: “After 13 years of Tory failure, the asylum system isn’t just broken — it’s costing taxpayers a fortune — only Labour has a proper plan to stop dangerous boat crossings.”