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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: The UK is spending £1.2m ($1.6m) every day housing asylum seekers in hotels the government revealed on Wednesday.
Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted that her department is “struggling” to find them permanent homes.
Tricia Hayes, the deputy permanent secretary at the Home Office, told MPs on Wednesday that 25,000 refugees were living in hotels in the UK. Most of them were had reached the country by crossing the English Channel in small boats.
That figure is three times higher than three years ago.
A further 12,000 Afghan refugees are also still being held in hotels more than six months since they were evacuated from Kabul. Just 4,000 of the 16,000 evacuated have been given a permanent home.
That means a total of around 37,000 people are awaiting long-term accommodation provided by the government and local authorities across the country. Councils across Britain have struggled to find enough free housing for the growing number of people that need 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.
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.
The bill aims to end the practice of housing asylum seekers in hotels by using new reception centers instead.
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.
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