Refugee charity hits out at ‘cruel’ proposal to house asylum seekers in tents

A proposal to house asylum seekers in tents on disused military sites has been described as “cruel” by a refugee charity.

The Home Secretary is working on contingency plans to erect marquees to house asylum seekers, ahead of an expected increase in the number of people arriving via small boats across the English Channel over the next few months.

The plan is reportedly part of Suella Braverman’s plans to avoid using hotels to accommodate asylum seekers.

The Home Secretary has purchased the marquees in recent days to accommodate migrants by the end of August, according to a Whitehall source.

The Times, which first reported the tent purchases, cited Government sources saying a similar proposal was rejected last year because of warnings it would trigger legal challenges based on inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.

Some in Government compared the idea with concentration camps, according to the paper.

Labour said it was in part an admission that the Government is not expecting its own policies to reduce the numbers crossing the Channel on small boats to actually work.

Chief executive of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton, said: “It’s staggering the Home Secretary plans to use what a Government source compared to a concentration camp to house people seeking asylum, in the same week courts ruled she broke the law three times with her inhumane treatment of refugees.

“The winners from this cruel plan will be the Home Office’s asylum housing contractors, who trouser tens of millions of pounds in taxpayer-subsidised profits as standards continue to plummet.

“This is yet another way the Government has developed to demonise people seeking asylum, which is rooted in its deeply racist approach to refugee protection.

“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.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the idea was an example that the Home Office is “flailing around”.

The Labour MP said: “We’ve had all sorts of different things. Hotel use is still going up, we’ve still got the barges, bases, tents, all sorts of different things.

“I think this is in part an admission that their own legislation that they promised would stop boat crossings, they promised would end all of the chaos, in fact they are not expecting it to work.

“I think at the heart of this, the Government is just failing to go after the criminal gangs that are driving and organising border crossings.”

She said Labour has set out plans for a “new cross-border police unit” and a new organised crime strategy across the UK.

But Ms Cooper, when challenged on Times Radio, did not rule out her own party taking such measures if it was in government, saying not enough was known about the Government’s plans.

“We don’t know what these proposals are so we’d need to see,” she said, before being interrupted.

When put to her that a rough idea of the plans is known, she added: “We don’t.”

Speaking to LBC earlier, she said: “We need grip, not gimmicks.”

Shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon, responding to reports about the Government’s plans on Twitter, said: “Panic measure after panic measure.”

A Government spokesman said: “We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable, there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6 million a day.

“We continue to work across Government and with local authorities to look at a range of accommodation options.

“Accommodation offered to asylum seekers, on a no-choice basis, meets our legal and contractual requirements.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2023, All Rights Reserved. Picture – Last year, the former military base at Manston was used as a migrant processing centre, became overcrowded, with outbreaks of scabies and diphtheria – (c) Gareth Fuller / PA.