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UK set to move refugees from hotels to army bases, report warns

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A large number of people have taken to crossing the English Channel illegally in small boats to reach the UK. (File photo by AFP)

The British government plans to move asylum seekers from hotels to military bases or disused ferries under plans that could be announced as early as next week, a report has revealed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to announce the “beginning of the end” of asylum hotels, which are currently being used to house asylum seekers as part of the government's legal obligation to provide people seeking help with a basic level of accommodation, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday.

More than 50,000 migrants are currently housed at a cost of nearly £7 million a day in the hotels, the report said. 

Under the new proposal, migrants will initially be moved into “decent but rudimentary” accommodation in former military bases which will be used to house single, adult male migrants.

Ministers are also understood to be seeking to use disused ferries, but plans to use student accommodation and holiday camps have been put on hold.

“We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being placed on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country,” said a Home Office spokesperson, adding that, “We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.”

The idea of using ferries was suggested in November, when the home secretary, Suella Braverman, told officials to find sites that could accommodate asylum seekers and to consider disused cruise ships as well.

The decision to move out the asylum seekers from the hotels comes after the British government announced its new 'Illegal Migration Bill," upon which, people entering the UK on small boats will be detained immediately and hindered from claiming asylum in the UK.

The plan also bans immigrants from returning once removed. Prior to this, asylum seekers had the right to remain in the country to have their cases heard.

Home Office figures show that around 3,000 migrants have crossed the Channel already this year, compared with a record of 45,000 channel crossings during the whole period of 2022, surpassing the previous year's record by more than 60 percent.

The government's plan is consisted of different policies designed to stop asylum seekers arriving in small boats, including a deal with Albania to return arrivals to their home country, and the policy to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Sunak, however, came under fierce criticism by the United Nations refugee agency for “extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the UK."

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) responded that deporting refugees without hearing their asylum claims amounted to a breach of international refugee laws.

Most of the asylum-seekers qualify to have their claims considered in the UK under international law and the government cannot declare them inadmissible forcefully.

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