Move to house migrants in Army barracks instead of hotels

 Move to house migrants in Army barracks instead of hotels

More asylum seekers could be housed in Army barracks rather than hotels under plans to be considered by a cross-government taskforce on deterring migrants from crossing the Channel.

Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay will chair the first meeting of the initiative early this week in a bid to address the crisis.

The taskforce will consider plans to reduce significantly the number of migrants accommodated in hotels by extending the use of Army barracks, government sources suggested.

It is also expected to consider whether migrants’ benefits could be cut, if return agreements can be strengthened and look again at “offshoring” migrants to third countries while their claims are processed.

On Sunday Craig Mackinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet, said the Government’s failure to grip the problem was “a key issue on the doorstep” adding that “it looks like state failure” which will cost it votes. “We have got to stop the viability of the route,” he told the BBC’s World At One.

He added: “We should perhaps be returning straight back to France those who have made it to the British shores because at the end of the day that was the deal that was done with France.” Another idea was to deploy British border guards to patrol French beaches and stop the boats leaving the Continent in the first place.

Some 24,700 migrants have made the journey in small boats this year, nearly triple the number that arrived last year. More than 1,000 have crossed in a single day twice in the past fortnight.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has ordered Mr Barclay to chair the new taskforce after being impressed by the way he has gripped supply chain issues in the food industry since replacing Michael Gove at the Cabinet Office.

Ministers from departments including the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office will be primarily involved on the task force, with additional input from the Department for Transport and possibly the Department of Work and Pensions.

One Government source: “It is about bringing other departments in and seeing what levers they can pull. The only people coming up with plans is the Home Secretary so far, now we are hoping everyone else can help out.”

Another source said: “The Prime Minister is very frustrated by the small boats, and the fact that numbers are increasing rapidly.”

Thousands put up in hotels because of shortage of council properties

Presently migrants arriving on the south coast are taken to the Tug Haven reception facility near Dover where they are given dry clothing and have their medical needs assessed, before being moved either to an immigration centre or local authority accommodation. However thousands are being put up in hotels because of a shortage of council properties.

Official figures show that around 8,700 migrants were accommodated in nearly 90 different hotels across the UK in February, compared with 1,200 in March the previous year. Some £70million a year has been set aside to cover the cost of these hotels.

To address this so-called ‘pull’ factor of being put up in a hotel, ministers will look at whether to house these migrants in more army barracks rather than hotels. Currently Napier barracks in Kent are used to accommodate migrants.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday the task force would look to address why migrants do not claim asylum in Germany or France, and instead continue on to the UK.

He told Times Radio: “If someone is genuinely there, why have they not already claimed asylum in Germany or France, why would they wait to get to Britain?

“I think it is right to ask these questions, to make sure this is reflected in the law and this is what the Home secretary is doing.”

The task force would look at “wider issues that are outside the Home Office, be it benefits or housing. It is right for the Government to work together across the board”, he said.

The task force will also look at return agreements for migrants after the Home Office disclosed last week that just five people who crossed the English Channel to Kent in small boats have been returned to the European Union this year as well as examine “offshoring” migrants to third countries while their claims are processed.

Richard Tice, the leader of the Reform Party, which is hoping to take votes from the disaffected Conservative supporters in by-elections next month on Dec 2 and Dec 16 said immigration was one of a handful of key issues troubling voters.

Kevin Saunders, the former chief immigration officer for the UK Border Force, said this weekend that the current Channel crisis is being driven by the fact that “the UK is just too attractive” to migrants, who know they will not be removed from the UK.

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