Home secretary Suella Braverman is refraining from endorsing an asylum-support initiative backed by the UN, despite its being labelled a “more humane” approach.
The initiative, funded by the Home Office, has gained recognition for its achievements in Bedfordshire, where it substantially curtailed expenses linked to housing refugees and migrants compared to detention.
This was accomplished through the provision of housing, alongside legal and welfare assistance.
Nevertheless, according to experts, the home secretary is actively pursuing an extensive expansion of the Home Office’s detention infrastructure, a move estimated to necessitate billions in funding.
Braverman has unveiled intentions to amplify immigration-detention capacity, including the repurposing of disused RAF bases and barges, The Guardian reported.
The Bibby Stockholm barge, initially designed to accommodate 500 asylum seekers, now sits vacant due to the detection of legionella bacteria on board.
Presently, the Home Office is expending over £5 million each day to lodge asylum seekers in hotels.
Concurrently, the rollout of the illegal migration act is predicted to result in the detention of “tens of thousands” of refugees, with potential costs exceeding £3 billion over the upcoming two years as estimated by internal government assessments.
A forthcoming report this week from the IPPR thinktank is anticipated to caution that the law will contribute to the ongoing turmoil.
The anticipated assessment by the UNHCR (the refugee agency that helps the government improve its asylum system) regarding the Home Office-sponsored pilot is expected to commend the Bedfordshire initiative for its more compassionate treatment of refugees and migrants, standing in contrast to the Home Office’s portrayal of an invasion and menacing migrants.
Critics speculate that this facet of the scheme’s success has contributed to its apparent abandonment by the Home Office, which is legally tasked with detaining and deporting individuals entering the UK unlawfully.
Insiders familiar with the scheme’s particulars contend that “The findings fly in the face of the illegal migration act. They certainly contradict the Home Office narrative and rhetoric of ‘invasion’ and ‘scary migrants.’”
Following her reappointment as Home Secretary by Rishi Sunak, Braverman labelled refugees and migrants crossing the Channel as “the invasion on our southern coast.”
Located in Bedford, the King’s Arm Project has provided support to 75 vulnerable migrants representing 23 nationalities since August 2020.
This endeavour has extended legal advice, clothing, mental health aid, English language instruction, and GP registration while facilitating integration into the community.
The pilot demonstrated greater cost-effectiveness compared to detention and yielded improved outcomes, including facilitating settled status.
Less than half of those held in immigration detention centres ultimately face deportation.
But despite the positive results observed during the pilot, the Home Office has not clarified why the initiative was not scaled up following its initial trial.
This is not the first instance of an “alternative to detention” initiative being abandoned by the Home Office.
In 2021, a programme in Newcastle designed to support vulnerable women in the community as opposed to detention was terminated by the Home Office.
Similarly, in 2019, former immigration minister Caroline Nokes aimed to reform the system to aid “support vulnerable women outside detention,” yet the Home Office’s approach to asylum seekers has grown more rigid in subsequent years.
A spokesperson for the Home Office noted that the existing asylum system is under significant pressure and the associated costs are deemed unacceptable.
The spokesperson underscored the government’s emphasis on curbing illegal immigration at its source and expressed ongoing efforts to explore avenues for reducing detention expenses.
Additionally, the spokesperson said the introduction of the illegal migration bill aims to ensure the detention and expeditious removal of individuals arriving in the UK unlawfully.