• Wednesday, February 21, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Migrant hotels to start closing by early next year: Government

Rishi Sunak has made stopping people arriving on the boats one of his priorities after the number of asylum seekers landing on the south coast of England soared to more than 45,000 last year

Robert Jenrick arrives to 10 Downing Street in London to attend the weekly cabinet meeting on September 12, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

TORY government announced that it will start reducing the number of hotels housing asylum seekers following a drop in arrivals of migrants.

The accommodation is politically sensitive due to the high price of the hotel contracts, which costs taxpayers about £8 million per day, according to official figures.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick told parliament that around 50 hotels will stop accommodating migrants over the next three months.

“We will not stop there,” he added, announcing that “more tranches” will follow shortly afterwards.

Jenrick said the move was possible because of recent measures that include an increase in “the number of people room sharing” and efforts to use disused military sites, even though those face some local opposition.

The minister also highlighted the controversial “Bibby Stockholm” barge docked off the southwest English coast.

A Legionella bacteria outbreak prompted the evacuation of dozens of migrants within days of being housed on the barge in August.

But with remedial works it has now welcomed 50 people since last week, and is intended to house up to 500 young male migrants.

About 400 hotels have been used to house record numbers of asylum seekers in the country.

In March, about 47,500 people were using hotel accommodation, according to official statistics.

Jenrick said arrivals of migrants on small boats from northern France were “down by over a fifth” compared to the same period in 2022.

According to official figures, 26,501 migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain on small boats this year.

A record 45,000 made the dangerous crossing last year, adding to an already large backlog in the asylum system.

Earlier this year, London and Paris agreed a deal in which Britain pays France to strengthen patrols on the French side.

Immigration is expected to be a key battleground issue in a general election widely expected next year.

The ruling Tories currently lag well behind the centre-left opposition Labour in opinion polls.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has made cracking down on illegal migration one of his priorities, as his party faces criticism for perceived failures on the issue.

His government has introduced controversial legislation barring asylum claims by all Channel arrivals and other “illegal routes”.

But that change is still pending as it awaits a court ruling on the legality of another immigration policy which would see failed asylum seekers deported to Rwanda.

(AFP)

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