07/09/2015 13:42 BST | Updated 07/09/2015 19:59 BST

Refugee Crisis: Government Sitting On Empty Buildings At Least The Size Of Wembley Stadium, Or 2,100 Family Homes

The Government has empty buildings that total more than the floor space of Wembley Stadium, or more than 2,100 family homes, the Huffington Post can reveal as ministers scramble to find space for thousands of refugees they have promised to house.

David Cameron this afternoon announced the UK is to accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps on the conflict-torn country's borders, or 12 a day.

While pledging to give councils funding from the overseas aid budget to pay for accommodation in their areas, a Conservative local government chief has warned authorities will be put under added strain given cuts and long waiting lists, and said Bob Geldof's pledge to personally house asylum seekers was "pie in the sky".

A recent Government response to a written question in Parliament reveals the state owns a vast amount of empty space, but may only be a fraction of the true figure as the NHS, military bases and foreign embassies are not included in the "civil estate", the collection of government-owned property assets.

wembley stadium

Wembley Stadium's floor space is roughly 180,000 sq m. The Government has 204,327 sq m of empty buildings.

At the end of March last year, 204,327 sq m of space was empty across the estate.

The new Wembley is roughly 180,000 sq m.

The average family home in 2014 was 95 sq m, meaning the available government space would equal around 2,150 properties.

The Centre for Policy Studies has said the "civil estate" is a "small sub-section of the entire Government estate", and excludes specialist centres and visitor centres.


Around half the estate is offices and the West Midlands has the largest total of empty space at 37,041 sq m.


Politicians have used public buildings to help vulnerable people in the past.

In 1997, John Prescott opened a shelter for homeless people at the iconic Admiralty Arch in central London in 1997.

The Government has been anxious to sell-off public buildings and land to tackle the deficit and housing crisis.

In July, George Osborne ordered a huge sell-off of government land to build 150,000 homes.

The Ministry of Defence alone owns 227,300 hectares – including 15 golf courses.

A number of MPs have pledged to offer a bed in their own home to a refugee amid a crisis considered the worst since the Second World War.

Among those is Jess Philips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley.

She told HuffPost UK: "There is no excuse for the Government not to help refugee families when they are sitting on buildings which could be used.

"Using vacant buildings to provide refuge will also go some way to ensuring that it is not the poorest in this country that bear the burden. through extended housing waiting lists.

"This is one option that will give newly-settled families a chance of safety and positive integration."

refugees syria camps

The UK Government is to take thousands from Syrian refugee camps

The Prime Minister's official spokesman this morning avoided saying whether Mr Cameron would put up asylum seekers in one of his properties, and would not say whether empty public buildings could be used.


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