The Immigration Minister updated Parliament on the progress the government is making in delivering the Prime Minister’s priority to stop the boats.

Surplus military sites at Scampton and Wethersfield will accommodate asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally on small boats, the government has announced.

Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, updated Parliament today (Wednesday 29 March) on the progress the government is making in delivering the Prime Minister’s priority to stop the boats; reducing the unsustainable pressure on the UK’s asylum system and the cost to the taxpayer caused by illegal crossings.

The government’s Illegal Migration Bill, which returned to Parliament this week, is designed to stop crossings by ending illegal entry as a route to asylum in the UK. This will significantly reduce the number of people requiring accommodation in hotels, which is costing £6 million a day.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said:

The Home Secretary and I have been clear that using expensive hotels for asylum seekers is wholly unacceptable.

Delivering accommodation on surplus military sites will provide cheaper and more orderly, suitable accommodation for those arriving in small boats.

We understand the concerns of local communities and are working closely to listen to their views and reduce the impact of these sites, including through providing onsite security and financial support.

The minister set out an update on the ongoing work being done across government to secure alternative, more appropriate, cost-effective accommodation options around the country.

The 2 military sites in Lincolnshire and Essex will provide basic and functional accommodation for migrants who illegally enter the UK by crossing the Channel, instead of using expensive hotels.

The sites will house asylum seekers in former barracks and modular accommodation in an orderly manner with healthcare provision in place, catering facilities on site and 24/7 security.

Further accommodation in the Prime Minister’s constituency at Catterick Garrison will be brought forward in due course.

Not only are these sites more affordable for taxpayers than hotels, but they are more manageable and orderly for communities and offer significant employment opportunities in the broader area.

We will work closely with local authorities and key partners to manage the impacts of using these sites, including liaising with local police to make sure appropriate arrangements are in place.

This approach also brings the UK in line with European partners, including Germany and Greece, who also successfully use military sites.

To begin reforming the accommodation system, the government will:

  • set up accommodation sites on surplus military sites in Wethersfield and Scampton for up to 3,700 asylum seekers across both sites, while preserving their heritage
  • open a non-military site in Bexhill, East Sussex which will also be used for accommodation for up to 1,200 people
  • explore the use of vessels to provide accommodation in line with the approach taken by the Netherlands and Scotland
  • significantly increase dispersed accommodation across the country by providing a new local authority funding package with a generous additional per bed payment for asylum seekers, alongside continued funding for each new dispersal bed
  • pilot an extra incentive payment for local authorities when properties for asylum seekers are made available faster
  • introduce a temporary licensing exemption to houses of multiple occupancy regulations for asylum seekers which will help move people out of hotels more quickly

Accommodating asylum seekers in the private rented sector and on alternative sites costs a fraction of the current costs of hotels which are £6 million a day or about £2.3 billion a year.

The Home Office is committed to supporting local authorities to enact these changes.

The changes to the asylum system are part of the urgent action the government is taking to stop the boats.

In his statement, Minister Jenrick said there had been significant progress since December, including:

  • ramping up immigration enforcement visits to their highest levels in recent years – with more than 3,500 since December, meaning more arrests and more people on a pathway to removal
  • introducing the landmark Illegal Migration Bill
  • signing an historic deal with the French government to stop the criminal gangs
  • increasing resource and streamlining processes to eliminate the legacy asylum backlog by the end of 2023

Since 2018 about 85,000 migrants have made the dangerous journey across the Channel, placing unprecedented and unsustainable pressure on housing.

The vast majority are single adult males. The government are under a legal obligation to accommodate those who would be otherwise be destitute.

The alternative sites will house asylum seekers in appropriate accommodation whilst they await a decision on their claim.

Asylum seekers will be in basic, safe and secure accommodation appropriate for this purpose, whilst providing value for money for the taxpayer.

The 2 surplus military sites Scampton and Wethersfield, and the non-military site in Bexhill, will be run by contractors with Home Office oversight.

People whose claims are refused and have exhausted their appeal rights will be removed from the UK.

The government recognises that using alternative sites involves difficult decisions, but urgent action is needed to reform the broken asylum system and reduce the use of hotels.

Scampton and Wethersfield are each due to accommodate about 200 people initially, with capacity gradually increasing to 1,700 at Wethersfield and 2,000 at Scampton.

The numbers of people expected on other sites will be published in due course.

The Home Office will preserve the heritage features of Scampton, recognising the vital role it played in the 2nd World War. This includes not accommodating migrants in buildings from this period. The Home Office only intends to use Scampton on a temporary basis.

We are committed to working with West Lindsay District Council to develop their long-term vision for the site.

Published 29 March 2023