‘Asylum process has been a mess for decades’ says Allan Hogarth Invalid email
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The shocking cost to the taxpayer is also set to rise further as the Government scrambles to find more hotel rooms.
A senior group of MPs heard the Home Office is spending £5.6 million a day on hotels for new arrivals making asylum claims. And taxpayers are footing the bill of £1.2m a day to house Afghan refugees who fled the Taliban takeover while long-term accommodation is sought.
Asked by committee chairwoman Dame Diana Johnson if the cost was likely to go up again, Abi Tierney, director general of the passport office and UK visas and immigration, replied: “Yes.”
Grant Shapps signed off on the procurement of new hotels to house asylum seekers during his days in post, but that the available supply was “getting shorter”. It takes around two months for ministers to find hotel rooms for migrants.
The shocking revelation comes as the Home Office is under pressure to improve conditions at the asylum processing centre at RAF Manston. And the Home Office could be hit by compensation claims from migrants as they have been kept at the former air base for too long.
Almost 3,000 people have been detained at the former RAF base in Manston, Kent, where cases of diphtheria and scabies have been reported.
There are no cooking facilities and some asylum seekers are sleeping on mats on the floor, because the Home Office has no accommodation to move them into while their claims are processed.
Hotels across the country are being used to temporarily house asylum seekers (Image: REX/Shutterstock)
David Neal, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, told the committee that he was left “speechless” by what he witnessed during a visit on Monday and immediately wrote to the home secretary and prisons watchdog.
“I spoke to an Afghan family who had been in a marquee for 32 days, with kit mats on the floor and blankets,” he said, describing the children as “young”.
Mr Neal said he spoke to Iraqi and Syrian families who had been at Manston for weeks, with one mother “terribly distressed because she didn’t know where they were going”.
“These are wretched conditions,” he added. “It’s a really dangerous situation, it’s failing to address vulnerability. There are risks there in terms of fire, disorder, medical issues and infection… there are 2,500 people not guarded by appropriately trained people. No prison in the country holds that many people.”
Dan O’Mahoney, the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander appointed by Priti Patel to coordinate the response to Channel crossings, said: “We are trying to increase the amount of accommodation [to move people to], that is our main priority to solve the problem,”
The Home Office has only processed four percent of asylum claims by migrants who crossed the Channel last year and officials admitted the interception rate made by French police of migrants attempting the journey has fallen.
MPs heard the number of people arriving was “outstripping” the capacity of the site and some were being held there for as long as a month, compared with the 24 hours intended.
Officials told the committee 96 percent of asylum applications submitted by migrants crossing the Channel in 2021 are still outstanding. Of the four percent completed, 85 per cent were granted refugee status or another protection status.
Dan Hobbs, director of asylum, protection and enforcement, said there is a “challenge in processing asylum claims in a timely way at present” and confirmed only a “small proportion” of last year’s arrivals had been granted asylum.
The cost of the UK’s asylum system has topped £2 billion a year, with the highest number of claims for two decades and record delays for people awaiting a decision.
Home Office spending on asylum rose by £756 million, from around £1.4 billion in 2020/21 to £2.1 billion in 2021/22 – the highest on record and more than double the amount spent in 2019/20, with officials struggling to keep up with the number of new applications.