Home Office spending millions putting up migrants in hotels after surge of Channel crossings

The Home Office is spending tens of millions of pounds putting up 10,000 asylum seekers on full board in hotels after a surge in claims fuelled by illegal migrant Channel crossings, official figures have revealed.

The number of asylum claimants living in nearly 100 hotels across the UK has increased nine-fold in just nine months from 1,200 in March amid growing concern in the Home Office that the system is “broken.”

The total asylum budget has doubled in six years to nearly £1 billion in 2019/20 including millions of pounds spent each year on cancelled flights for failed asylum seekers obstructed by legal challenges and £40 million claimed each year for legal aid for asylum cases.

Nearly £400 million of that £1 billion is being spent on housing not only more than 40,000 current asylum seekers but also an estimated 19,400 failed claimants, many of whom have mounted numerous appeals against their rejected applications.

The figures, compiled by the House of Commons Library and the think-tank Migration Watch UK, have prompted demands for a major overhaul of the asylum system.

Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “The shambles in the Channel adds to the strains on an asylum system which is already at risk of collapse. Reform is needed to end asylum abuse and to stop the waste of taxpayer money.”

The coronavirus pandemic has partly contributed to the surge in use of hotels after the Home office and its contractors Serco, Mears and Clearsprings paused the movement of asylum seekers from existing properties.

At the same time, the number of migrants crossing the Channel has increased seven-fold on last year with a record 8,500 reaching UK shores so far this year. The Government is legally obliged to house them despite more than 80 per cent subsequently seeing their asylum claims rejected.

A source said: “Usually there would be enough accommodation available as there are always people moved on after being given asylum or refused. There is not at the moment. The answer has been to source hotel accommodation, usually in three-star hotels.”

Migration Watch UK has estimated if Channel crossings continue on the present scale, housing payments for asylum seekers deemed eligible after arriving by this route would cost nearly £250 million over a decade. 

In its report, Migration Watch UK said: “Asylum-related accommodation is under enormous and growing strain with about £400 million spent this year to house 60,000 asylum seekers and failed claimants. There are nearly 10,000 people in hotels.”

Home Office figures show the number of asylum seekers and failed claimants receiving furnished accommodation with utility bills and council tax paid has trebled from 20,000 in 2011-2012 to 60,000 in late September this year.

The number of asylum cases Home Office officials are handling has risen substantially in recent years, from 60,400 in 2014-2015 to just under 110,000 in 2019-2020.

At the same time, Migration Watch UK said, immigration officials believed asylum abuse was worsening, citing an increase in individuals making late or spurious claims for asylum while in detention, claiming for medical reasons or that they were victims of modern slavery.

Between January 2015 and December 2019, the Home Office cancelled 213,000 deportation “tickets”, equivalent to 117 a day, including those hit by last-minute legal challenges.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel has admitted the asylum system is “broken” and has promised reform including new laws to stop people drawing out the asylum application process.

Two former military bases have been opened to house Channel migrants while they apply for asylum and the Home Office is studying proposals for “offshore” transit centres, the most likely option being recommissioned ferries.

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