UK plans to house asylum seekers in disused military bases

LONDON: The UK plans to temporarily house asylum seekers in disused military bases and could use ferries and barges in the future in a bid to reduce hotel bills, immigration minister Robert Jenrick announced.

He told MPs that the government planned to house “several thousand” asylum seekers at repurposed barracks buildings and portable buildings at two former Royal Air Force bases in southeast and eastern England.

A separate site on private land in East Sussex in southeast England will also be used, Jenrick added.

The government is also exploring the “possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels” such as ferries and barges as it looks to reduce a $2.8 billion annual bill for hotel accommodation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping illegal crossings of the Channel one of his priorities, and Jenrick said the prospect of hotel accommodation was a draw for those making the dangerous journeys.

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“These hotels take valuable assets from communities and place pressures on local public services,” he told MPs, adding “we must not elevate the wellbeing of illegal migrants above those of the British people”.

“Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more, because we cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects,” the minister said.

But the plans face opposition from charities, who branded the accommodation “grossly inadequate”, and the Labour Party, whose shadow interior minister Yvette Cooper called the proposals an “admission of failure”.

The government also appears set to encounter legal challenges on using the airfields from local councils run by their own Conservative party.

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