UK’s Illegal Migration Bill could cost £6bn in detention, deportation

The UK government’s proposed Illegal Migration Bill could cost up to £6bn over the next two years, according to internal estimates. The bill, currently being debated in Parliament, aims to remove anyone arriving in the UK illegally and prevent them from claiming asylum. The Home Office expects to spend between £3bn and £6bn on detention facilities, accommodation, and removals. The government argues that the legislation is necessary due to the record number of people arriving via small boats and the daily cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels, which is nearly £7m.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has prioritised addressing the issue, but the bill has faced opposition from within the Conservative Party and strong criticism in the House of Lords. No official costs or required investments have been disclosed by ministers. However, a senior government source described the bill as a significant pressure on public spending. While the Treasury supports the policy, there is concern among insiders that the costs associated with the controversial bill are rising.

Home Office sources acknowledge the bill’s implementation will be expensive and complex, with one admitting that making the entire process work would be a “major logistical challenge.” Over 45,000 people crossed the English Channel on small boats last year, and the UK currently has the capacity to detain around 2,000 people for immigration purposes. The government has started work to significantly increase this capacity. Whitehall sources emphasise that there are many variables, and the bill’s purpose is also to act as a deterrent.

The Home Office hopes that the number of people being detained and the associated costs will decrease over time. However, Treasury insiders are concerned that the deterrent effect has not been reliably modelled. One Home Office source close to the legislation admitted the deterrent effect was an “unknown factor” that could not be predicted.

Jon Featonby, chief policy analyst at the Refugee Council, said: “The Home Office is clearly aware that so-called deterrence measures simply don’t work, and it is preparing to detain thousands of desperate people who will end up on our shores in search of protection. Until refugees fleeing violence and persecution are given a safe pathway to seek asylum in our country, they will continue to risk their lives to get here.”

Featonby added that instead of progressing with the expensive and unworkable crackdown on refugees seeking safety in the UK, the government should focus on creating a system that protects the right to claim asylum and prioritises both compassion and control.

Rob McNeil, deputy director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said costs were already “very, very high” and that if asylum claims were processed faster, there would be fewer people in the system. He questioned whether the proposed bill would deter people from arriving in the UK in the first place.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper responded to the figures, saying: “The Conservatives are in total chaos on asylum and their new bill is a sham that will make the soaring costs far worse.”

The government plans to publish its economic impact assessment of the bill in due course. If the Illegal Migration Bill becomes law, it will apply retrospectively to anyone who arrived in the UK illegally after March 7, 2023. The Home Office states that the current asylum system’s annual cost has reached £3bn a year.

A government spokesperson said: “Our Illegal Migration Bill will help to stop the boats by making sure people smugglers and illegal migrants understand that coming to the UK illegally will result in detention and swift removal – only then will they be deterred from making these dangerous journeys in the first place.”

World News

Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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