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UK opposition furious as government plans to house migrants in military bases

The British government has laid out the details of a plan which requires asylum seekers and migrants to be placed in former military barracks, barges and ships as it tries to cut down the costs of providing temporary hotel accommodation.

An estimated 51,000 migrants are believed to be staying in 395 hotels at a cost of more than £6 million ($7.4 million) a day.

The plan has drawn ire from all opposition parties, who claim the immigration matter will get even worse and that the plan will not cut down the use of hotels nor will it cost less to house the migrants in ex-military sites.

The proposals were voiced in parliament on Wednesday by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who complained about an “eye-watering £2.3 billion a year bill” for housing people as their claims are processed.

He said “accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more” to stop the UK from becoming a “magnet” to people seeking “better economic prospects.” Jenrick confirmed the report that three former military sites are going to be used to hold migrants and asylum seekers in “barracks” and “Portakabins.”

Main opposition Labour Party’s Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the plan is an “admission of failure” by the government, and that the situation is “getting worse” under the Conservative party government. Cooper said the government previously claimed they would stop using hotels — but they are used now “more than ever.”

Commenting on housing migrants in ships off the coast, Jenrick said the use of “vessels” is under consideration “as they are in Scotland and in the Netherlands.”

Scottish MPs loudly responded to the immigration minister, shouting “it’s not the same”. In Scotland, cruise ships were used to house Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

Scottish National Party’s (SNP) spokesperson Alison Thewliss said the UK has “historical form in the use of internment camps, and it is despicable this government is intent on bringing that back.”

The government’s “plan is a prison ship designed as a deterrent” while the SNP’s scheme for the Ukrainians “provided wrap around” care, she said. Thewliss also touched upon a leaked Home Office report which found housing migrants on ships was “even more expensive than the hotels plans.”

In an ironical rebuff, Liberal Democrats MP Alistair Carmichael said the parliament should “acknowledge the true genius” of this plan by the government, which believes that lots of people from small boats should be put together “in one big boat.”

On Monday, the UK government announced that Afghan refugees housed in hotels would be evicted. Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer announced in the House of Commons that the refugees who were in “bridging hotels” would be told to move out.

He said that the government had plans to resettle the refugees, and move them into “settled accommodation.” A three-month notice would be given to the Afghan refugees as an offer of housing would only be made once.

Rights groups have expressed concerns after the announcement, saying that thousands of Afghans, who fled the country after the Taliban takeover in 2021, are at risk of being homeless.

At the moment, around 8,000 people out of the 24,500, who left Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country, are currently staying at hotels. Half of them are children, according to media reports.

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