The UN is backing a Home Office-funded pilot that could dramatically reduce rising costs in the crisis-hit asylum system – yet Suella Braverman refused to endorse the scheme, even though it was described as ” more human”.
This week, the UNHCR (the refugee agency that helps the UK government improve the asylum system) will praise a scheme funded by the Home Office in Bedfordshire, which has been found to cut the cost of accommodating refugees and migrants by more than half compared to their placement. in detention. The savings came through housing people and providing legal and welfare support.
The home secretary, however, intends to oversee a massive increase in the Home Office’s detention situation, which experts estimate will take billions to fund. Braverman told parliament he wanted to pursue “a program of increasing immigration control capacity”, which reportedly included disused RAF bases and barges. The only barge used so far is the Bibby Stockholm, which was supposed to hold 500 asylum seekers but is now empty after legionella bacteria were discovered on board.
The Home Office also pays more than £5m a day to house asylum seekers in hotels.
Meanwhile, the illegal migration movement, says the Refugee Council, will lead to “tens of thousands”‘ of refugees being detained, with internal government projections showing the cost could rise to £3bn in the next two years. A report this week by the IPPR thinktank is expected to warn that the law will only exacerbate the unrest.
UNHCR’s evaluation of the Home Office-funded pilot is expected to praise the Bedfordshire scheme because it is “more humane” and treats refugees and migrants with dignity. Critics say this aspect sees the scheme effectively abandoned by the Home Office, whose bill gives the home secretary a legal duty to prevent and remove anyone deemed to be illegally entering the UK.
Sources with knowledge of the plot said: “The findings fly in the face of illegal immigration. They certainly contradict the Home Office’s narrative and rhetoric of ‘invasion’ and ‘terrifying migrants. ‘” Shortly after he was reappointed as home secretary by Rishi Sunak, Braverman told the Commons in October that refugees and migrants crossing the Channel in small boats “are an invasion of our south coast” .
The King’s Arm Project, based in Bedford, has since August 2020 supported 75 vulnerable migrants of 23 nationalities, offering them legal advice, clothing, mental health support, English language learning and registration to the GP while in the community.
The pilot was more cost-effective than detention and led to better outcomes, such as settled status. Less than half of those held in immigration detention centers are deported.
A participant in the scheme said that the help “behaved, very smooth and effective. It came at a time when I was in the depths of hopelessness and despair, I did not know who to ask for help.”
The Home Office did not provide an explanation as to why the scheme was not introduced on a wider scale after the pilot last summer.
This is not the first “alternative to detention” scheme to be abandoned by the Home Office. In 2021, an initiative in Newcastle to ensure vulnerable women can live in the community instead of being detained has been cut by the Home Office.
In 2019, former immigration minister Caroline Nokes wanted to reform the system to help “support vulnerable women outside of detention” but the Home Office’s attitude towards asylum seekers has hardened in the following years.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Our current asylum system is under severe pressure and the costs are unacceptable. The best way to relieve the pressures on the asylum system is to stop the boat in the first place.
“We continue to explore other ways to reduce the cost of detention, but there is currently no evidence that provides better value for money than the current system.
“The government has introduced illegal immigration legislation, which will ensure that those people who arrive in the UK illegally are detained and transferred immediately to their country of origin or a safe third country.”