UK’s asylum system comes at a staggering £3.5 billion cost to the public

Taxpayers are shelling out £500,000 every day for 5,000 empty hotel beds, in case Channel crossings surge, it has emerged.

The revelation will heap fresh pressure on ministers.

Top officials admit we are paying for the rooms to prevent the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent being overwhelmed.

It comes as a report by the thinktank Policy Exchange claimed Britain’s creaking asylum system now costs the public £3.5billion a year in hotel costs, benefits, health services and school places.

Around 50,000 arrivals, the vast majority of whom have crossed the English Channel, are being housed in hotels.

READ MORE: Migrants staying in hotels rises to 40,000

Senior Home Office civil servant, Simon Ridley, admitted the number of migrants arriving in the UK could top last year’s record of 45,755, as border chiefs brace for the “peak” months of July, August and September.

Mr Ridley said the Home Office was paying for the 5,000 hotel rooms as a “buffer”, in case of a dramatic increase in crossings.

He added: “We’re making sure we have got a buffer of about 5,000 beds so we have always got an outflow. It’s unpredictable. We’ve got to be able to have some beds empty, just to keep the flow through [Manston].”

The Home Office was criticised severely after 4,000 migrants were held at the Manston centre, despite it having a capacity of only 1,600.

It led to tents set up outside the centre, with diseases spreading and violence between asylum seekers, some of whom were forced to sleep on floors.

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Almost 12,800 have crossed the Channel so far this year…narrowly down on the 13,323 who arrived in 2022.

Last month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak lauded a 20 per cent fall in crossings. But they began to surge within days as weather improved.

More than 1,300 migrants have crossed over the past three days, including a new record daily total of 686. Officials have predicted as many as 80,000 asylum seekers could make the treacherous sea journey this year.

Mr Ridley told Parliament’s public accounts committee: “We’re ahead of where we thought our worst case scenario might have been back in January.

“But the real peak of arrivals is July, August, September – we’re coming into it. We could be upwards of the number last year. That is certainly a possible scenario.”

The Policy Exchange report warned the estimated £2.2billion hotel bill for migrants is higher than the amount allocated in the second round of the Levelling Up Fund to boost communities in desperate need of support.

It is also three times the amount that is paid to tackle the problem of homelessness.

Former immigration minister, Sir Brandon Lewis, said: “The impact of illegal migration on the availability of housing and public services risks fuelling public resentment, especially in some of the most deprived and left-behind parts of the UK.

“We won an election pledging to level-up the UK. 

“But we are now spending more on hotels for illegal migrants than on homelessness.”

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Mr Lewis wants a new safe, legal route, with a cap controlled by Parliament.

But he warned it would work only alongside “robust measures” to end Channel crossings.

Policy Exchange said nearly two-thirds of those crossing the Channel last year were men aged between 18 and 39 – many from safe countries like Albania or India.

Report author Dr Rakib Ehsan called for the asylum process to be streamlined by prioritising women and girls at risk of sexual violence in countries where rape is used as a weapon of war.

The Home Office’s top civil servant, Sir Matthew Rycroft, said his department hoped to stop using hotels “as soon as possible”.

He insisted it was “on track” to meet Mr Sunak’s target of cutting part of the backlog of asylum cases by the end of the year.

A Home Office spokesman said: “It is only right we have strong plans in place which will allow us to fulfil our statutory obligation to provide accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute.

“This includes having sufficient accommodation spaces ready.”

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