Disused cruise ships could be used to house asylum seekers – while the government expects to spend £3.5bn on people who have come to the UK to find sanctuary from persecution this fiscal year, the home secretary has said.
Suella Braverman told the Lords’ Justice and Home Affairs Committee her department is looking at the idea of placing asylum seekers on out-of-use cruise ships.
She suggested officials are in talks with shipping operators, while adding: “Everything is still on the table and nothing is excluded.”
Mrs Braverman also said the government is due to spend £3.5bn on accommodation and support for those claiming asylum in the 2022/23 financial year.
That includes £2.7bn on accommodation – £2.3bn on hotels and £400m on “other types of accommodation”, Mrs Braverman said.
“There is a huge amount of money that is going into accommodating a very large number of asylum seekers,” the home secretary added.
There are currently 117,000 people in the UK’s asylum system, with 40,000 in hotels, she said.
She described the challenge of hitting a target of getting 100,000 asylum seekers into local authority accommodation instead of in hotels as “incredibly difficult”.
There are 57,000 people seeking asylum that are in council accommodation at the moment, she said.
Responding to a question about cruise ships, Mrs Braverman said: “We want to end the use of hotels as quickly as possible because it’s an unacceptable cost to the taxpayer, it’s over £5m a day on hotel use alone.
“We will bring forward a range of alternative sites, they will include disused holiday parks, former student halls – I should say we are looking at those sites – I wouldn’t say anything is confirmed yet.
“But we need to bring forward thousands of places, and when you talk about vessels all I can say is – because we are in discussion with a wide variety of providers – that everything is still on the table and nothing is excluded.”
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No airline for Rwanda deportations
Mrs Braverman also suggested to the Lords committee she is yet to find a new airline to deport migrants to Rwanda – one of the government’s key policies that has proven controversial and has come up against multiple legal challenges.
She said there were “ongoing discussions with several airlines” after Spanish charter airline Privilege Style pulled out in October following pressure from campaigners.
A Privilege Style plane was used for the first flight in June, but it never took off due to last minute legal challenges.
Asked if she had since found another airline to operate flights to Rwanda, Mrs Braverman told peers on Wednesday: “We have a lot of ongoing discussions with several airlines.
“We are returning people almost every week to various countries around the world. We do that through scheduled flights, we charter flights… so we’re in a variety of discussions with several airlines for lots of different destinations.”
The “delivery” of the Rwanda deal was “on pause, it’s on hold while we’re going through litigation”, she added.