Migrants will reportedly be moved out of hotels and instead will be housed in disused ferries and military bases as part of plans expected to be announced by the government in the coming weeks.
Hotels housing asylum seekers have been targeted by anti-refugee groups in recent months, in attacks that have prompted condemnation by MPs and the police.
Under the new plans, it is reported that asylum seekers will be moved into “decent but rudimentary” accommodation in former military bases. Ministers are also said to be considering using disused ferries to provide temporary housing, but are not expected to bring forward plans to use holiday camps or student accommodation.
A Home Office spokesperson did not confirm or deny that the government was intending to use disused ferries or military bases to house migrants.
The two military bases the government is intending to use are RAF Scampton, in Lincolnshire, and MDP Wethersfield in Braintree, Essex, according to The Daily Telegraph.
They will be used to house asylum seekers currently in hotel accommodation, and will also take in migrants who arrive on small boats via the Channel.
Plans to use RAF Scampton – which is the former home of the Red Arrows aerobatic display team and the Dambusters – have been met with criticism from locals, politicians and historians.
More than 40 historians, including Tom Holland and Dan Snow, have written an open letter expressing their discontent.
The news that the government was considering using disused ferries and military bases to house asylum seekers sparked anger on Twitter on Saturday, with charities and politicans speaking out against the idea.
Migrants’ Rights Network tweeted: “Yet another appalling + inhumane measure by the Home Office. Placing people who are seeking safety in military accommodation and disused ferries will mean more misery, trauma and further isolation from the communities who want to support and welcome them.”
Social commentator Bushra Shaikh wrote: “Plans to house migrants on military bases or disused ferries further confirms the dehumanisation of migrants. These are people who deserve dignity. Even criminals are treated better.” She called the plans “utterly degrading”.
The move follows the government’s controversial decision to host asylum seekers in army barracks during the pandemic, including in Penally in Wales.
Liz Saville Roberts, the group leader of Plaid Cymru in the House of Commons, said: “Plaid Cymru Westminster leader and Home Affairs spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP: “Inspectors described the Penally barracks in Pembrokeshire as ‘impoverished, run-down and unsuitable’. They found the vast majority of people housed there to be feeling depressed and hopeless.
“Penally was thankfully shut down and people were moved to more appropriate accommodation. But this Tory Government learned nothing from their failures.
“Reports of plans to move asylum seekers to army bases within weeks shows yet again that this Tory Government is driven by cruelty not policy outcomes.”
“Penally was shut down – but this Tory Government learned nothing,” she continued, adding that such measures are “Driven by cruelty not policy outcomes”.
Mr Sunak has made stopping small-boat crossings one of his five key priorities, and said he is ready to “pull all the levers at our disposal” to stop the boats.
A key part of this strategy is the controversial plan to deport migrants to Rwanda – a plan that has been described as “shamefully cruel” by campaigners and charities.
The prime minister could face a major rebellion against his Illegal Migration Bill next week, led by a number of senior Tories.
The 60 rebel MPs, who include former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, want to add an amendment to the legislation that would give UK courts the power to ignore rulings made by the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Sunak is reported to have invited the MPs to No 10 in an attempt to quell the rebellion.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “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.
“We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.
“The government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.”
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