UK’s Illegal Migration Bill could cost £6bn over two years

The UK government’s proposed Illegal Migration Bill could cost up to £6 billion over the next two years, according to internal projections. The bill, which is currently under debate in Parliament, would grant ministers the authority to remove anyone entering the UK illegally and bar them from seeking asylum. The government argues that the legislation is necessary due to the rising number of people arriving in small boats and the nearly £7 million daily expense of housing asylum seekers in hotels.

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. Although the government has not yet disclosed any costs associated with the bill or the scale of investment required, a senior government source described it as a significant pressure on public spending. The Treasury supports the policy, but there is growing concern about the escalating costs linked to the controversial legislation.

Home Office sources acknowledge the bill’s implementation will be expensive and complex, with one admitting that coordinating the entire process would be a “major logistical challenge.” In 2021, over 45,000 people crossed the English Channel on small boats, while the UK currently has the capacity to detain approximately 2,000 individuals for immigration purposes. Efforts are underway to significantly increase this capacity.

Officials emphasise that many variables are involved, and the bill’s purpose is also to act as a deterrent. The Home Office hopes that the number of detainees, and therefore the costs, will decrease over time. However, Treasury insiders are concerned that the deterrent effect has not been reliably modelled. A Home Office source close to the legislation conceded that 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, “Instead of moving forward with this hugely expensive and unworkable crackdown on refugees seeking safety in the UK, the government should be focusing on creating a system that protects the right to claim asylum and that prioritises both compassion and control.”

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. In the short term, a legacy system will remain in place to handle claims of those who arrived on small boats before that date. The Home Office states that the current asylum system’s annual cost has reached £3 billion 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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