UK to house migrants in tents if arrivals surge: reports

AFP , Friday 28 Jul 2023

The UK government is planning to house migrants in tents to help deal with any surge in small boats crossing the Channel in the coming months, British media reported Friday.

UK Immigrants
A British police officer stands guard at Dungeness on the southeast coast of England on June 15, 2022 as migrants disembark from a lifeboat. AFP


Tents able to house up to 2,000 migrants have been purchased by the interior ministry, which plans to erect them on disused military sites by the end of August, several UK media outlets said.

It follows an uptick in the number of arrivals on the shores of southeast England late last summer which led to criticism the government was unprepared and overwhelmed.

But the purported tent plans have provoked disquiet within its ranks, according to The Times, which said some officials had compared their use with concentration camps.

The reports also come the day after the High Court ruled that the government's "systematic and routine" long-term use of interior ministry-run hotels to house lone migrant children was "unlawful".

An increase in cross-Channel migrant arrivals has stretched UK government resources and led to fierce political acrimony over their treatment.

At the end of last year, more than 160,000 asylum-seekers were in limbo waiting for their applications to be processed.

In the meantime, thousands more have arrived on British shores, with another surge expected in the months from August to October.

However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to "stop the boats" and his government this month passed a controversial law barring asylum claims by anyone arriving via the Channel and other "illegal" routes.

Meanwhile interior minister Suella Braverman has introduced contentious housing policies aimed at reducing the use of costly hotel rooms in an asylum system which currently spends £6 million ($7.8 million) daily on accommodation.

The Bibby Stockholm, a barge docked on the southern coast of England, will begin hosting 50 single male migrants on Tuesday, despite widespread local discontent.

The main opposition Labour party's Yvette Cooper told BBC Radio the reported planned use of tents was a sign of Tory policy failures.

"They promised they would end all of the chaos, in fact they are not expecting it to work," she said.

Tim Naor Hilton, head of the charity Refugee Action, called the reports "staggering".

"It really shouldn't be too much to ask that people who have fled violence, torture and persecution have their claims assessed quickly and justly and are housed in safe homes in our communities," he said.

The interior ministry declined to comment on the reports.

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