New research estimates Home Office plans to block refugees from entering the UK could cost the taxpayer £2.7bn a year. The report by the coalition of charities and refugee organisations Together With Refugees, seeks to highlight the enormous financial cost, as well as the human cost, of implementing the ‘unworkable and cruel’ policies put forward in the Nationality and Borders Bill.
The controversial bill, which is due to become law in a matter of months, includes plans to process refugees offshore, imprison people seeking refuge who arrive via ‘irregular routes’ including channel crossings in small boats, and establish large out-of-town accommodation centres to house those seeking refugee protection.
Prior to the passage of the Bill, the government is required to publish its own Impact Assessment, including the economic implications, but none has yet been produced. The Home Secretary refused to confirm when this will be published at a meeting of the Home Affairs Select Committee on the 2nd February, stating only that the bill had been ‘well scrutinised’.
The costings included in the report include £1.44bn for offshore processing centres for migrants in an as yet unconfirmed country. The Home Office say they have modelled this policy on Australia’s controversial asylum system, despite the fact Australia is in the process of scaling back their offshore processing operations.
The research also highlights the £432m a year cost to imprison those seeking safety in the UK who travel via irregular routes, such as in a lorry or on a small boat. Though this figure doesn’t include those who could be convicted for assisting or rescuing refugees who are also criminalised by the Bill.
A spokesperson for Together With Refugees said this week: ‘This is an astonishing amount of additional public money for the unworkable and cruel proposals in the Bill – enough to pay for more than 80,000 NHS nurses a year. ‘Having fled their homes in fear and struggled to find safety, these measures would leave women, children and men facing further hardship in prison, isolated in another country indefinitely, separated from family and facing insecurity and indecision.’
Tory MP and former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said in response to the report: ‘This research suggests the Government has not levelled with the public about the sheer cost of implementing what is being proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill. It seems to me that if the Government is determined to press ahead with these eye-wateringly expensive and unproven policies, ministers should look again carefully at some of the alternative reforms debated in Parliament, including introducing new, controlled safe routes and predictable targets for resettling people fleeing conflict and persecution.’
A spokesman for the Home Office said: ‘These figures are pure speculation. While lives are being lost in the Channel we will look at all options available to us. Our broken asylum system is costing the taxpayer an unacceptable £4.7m a day on hotels, which is why urgent reform is needed. Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken asylum system so that we spend less time and money on those abusing the system, enabling us to focus on helping those in genuine need.’