Despite Tory Promises, New Asylum Sites Set To Cost Millions More Than Housing Migrants In Hotels

Remember when the government said the Bibby Stockholm barge would a cheaper alternative?
Bibby Stockholm is just one of few planned sites meant to be an alternative way to housing migrants in hotels.
Bibby Stockholm is just one of few planned sites meant to be an alternative way to housing migrants in hotels.
Finnbarr Webster via Getty Images

The plan to use sites like the Bibby Stockholm barge for accommodation is going to cost significantly more than housing migrants in hotels, according to the Whitehall’s spending watchdog – millions more, in fact.

That’s despite repeated promises from the government that this scheme would be cheaper for housing migrants while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed.

How much will the plan cost?

Only in January, Home Office officials said the Bibby Stockholm barge – dubbed a “floating Grenfell” by staff at the local council – in Dorset would be £20 a day cheaper per migrant than keeping migrants in a hotel.

But, as the National Audit Office announced on Wednesday, the government will be spending £1.2 billion on housing migrants in large accommodation sites like the repurposed barge in Dorset.

The government is expected to have spent at least £230 million trying to turn ex-RAF bases in Lincolnshire and in Essex, and ex-student accommodation in Huddersfield into new venues for migrants.

Overall, the NAO estimates this will end up costing £46 million more than using hotels.

By 2034, the watchdog projected that the cost of the four sites will be higher than the hotel bill over that same period.

The Home Office is also thought to have spent £3.1 billion on private accommodation over the last year.

At the moment, only two sites are open – and only 900 people were housed by the end of January.

Was there any good news for the government?

Yes, a little – NAO’s head, Gareth Davies, said the government has made “progress” in reducing the number of migrants using hotels.

The government had stopped using 60 of around 400 hotels it was using last October to reduce taxpayer costs.

However, the NAO suggested this was not just down to moving migrants into the new sites, but also about speeding up asylum decisions and increasing room-sharing in hotels.

Davies also criticised the home office for moving too quickly, saying: “The pace at which the government pursued its plans led to increased risks, and it now expects large sites to cost more than using hotel accommodation.”

How has the government responded?

The prime minister’s spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that the use of hotels is not something we think is acceptable to local communities and that is why we have acted swiftly to reduce the use of hotels.

“We are due to have closed 100 asylum hotels by the end of March.

“Without taking action the cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels would reach £11 billion by 2026.”

The Home Office told the BBC this plan is “better value for money” than using hotels (after the initial development costs).

The added that using hotels for asylum seekers is “unacceptable” and that people would be deterred from the UK with the Rwanda plan.

They said: “While the NAO’s figures include set-up costs, it is currently better value for money for the taxpayer to continue with these sites than to use hotels.”

It said costs will fall as it was “closing dozens of asylum hotels every month”.

The report found that Home Office officials rated their own plans “high risk or undeliverable” – and the government has lost “at least £3.4million” while trying to develop sites it will not use.


What's Hot