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UK Has to Reduce Reliance on Hotels to House Migrants, Says Robert Jenrick

The UK has to “reduce its reliance on hotels” for housing migrants and asylum seekers, immigration minister Robert Jenrick has said.

Speaking to the BBC, he said he had to look after taxpayers and his duty was to the British public over migrants.

He added it was “fair and reasonable” to ask asylum seekers to share rooms in hotels in some circumstances.

It follows a dispute with asylum seekers over their temporary accommodation in central London.

Last week, about 40 asylum seekers were offered space in a Pimlico hotel, but refused to enter after being asked to sleep four people per room.

Head of Westminster Council Adam Huq expressed his concern in a letter to the home secretary, saying people who “are likely to have been through significant and traumatic events” were being asked to share “an inappropriately sized room with multiple strangers”.

Asked about the case on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Mr Jenrick said the government did not want to use hotels, arguing it was “taking away valuable assets for the local business community… people’s weddings and personal events have had to be cancelled”.

“But where we are using them, it’s right that we get good value for money for the taxpayer,” he added.

“And so if single adult males can share a room, and it’s legal to do so, which will obviously depend on the size of the accommodation, then we’ll ask people to do that,” he added.

However, he denied it was government policy for asylum seekers and migrants to be housed in shared rooms.

He also said the UK’s asylum system was “riddled with abuse” and that the country could not be allowed to be “perceived as a soft touch”.

Labour said in response: “After 13 years of Tory failure, the asylum system isn’t just broken – it’s costing tax payers a fortune – only Labour has a proper plan to stop dangerous boat crossings.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made reducing the numbers coming to the UK illegally one of his key priorities. Part of his plan is to implement the Illegal Migration Bill, currently going through Parliament.

It would give ministers new powers to remove anyone arriving in the UK illegally and stop them claiming asylum here.

But it has attracted fierce criticism including from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said it risked “great damage” to the UK’s reputation.

The BBC understands the Home Office estimates the plans in the bill could cost between £3bn and £6bn through spending on detention facilities, as well as ongoing accommodation and removals.

Last year the number of people arriving in the UK in small boats via the English Channel hit over 45,000 – the highest number since figures were first collected in 2018.

The government is trying different ways to accommodate the rising numbers of people who are coming to the UK, including housing people in barges or facilities on air bases.

Mr Jenrick was keen to repeat his assertion that the government is taking a robust approach, and that by asking migrants to share rooms he wants to cut the costs to the taxpayer.

But he was less keen to acknowledge that the backlog for asylum claims is extremely high, and that compared to a few years ago, it takes much longer for cases to be resolved.

The problems with accommodation at 395 hotels around the country would be far less acute if there were fewer people stuck in the system.

When it comes to how ministers handle the issues there are not many easy answers.

But while Conservative ministers say they want to bring immigration down, they have presided over the numbers going up and up. There is a serious clash between the rhetoric and the reality.

Source : BBC