UK set to house asylum seekers on barges and ex-military bases

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LONDON — The U.K. will move away from using hotels and instead house asylum seekers in ex-army barracks and even potentially on a giant barge, the government will announce today.

The plans — which come amid new and controversial efforts to curb cross-Channel migration — will be announced in the Commons Wednesday by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who will point to the current £6.2m per day price tag for use of hotels.

Jenrick will announce that people arriving in the country through unauthorized means will be housed in several ex-military sites across the U.K.

According to multiple newspaper reports, the government also intends to move asylum seekers onto one or more giant disused barges, or onto ferries and cruise ships. The latter would emulate Scotland’s devolved government, which has housed Ukrainian refugees on cruise ships in Edinburgh and Glasgow due to a lack of appropriate long-term accommodation.

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Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab confirmed Wednesday morning that the use of “vessels” was under consideration.

“We will look at the whole range of options, low-cost accommodation, ex-Army barracks and, where it’s appropriate, as has been used elsewhere in Europe and I think in Scotland as well, vessels if they can safely and responsibly be used,” Raab told BBC Breakfast.

The announcement follows the unveiling of Rishi Sunak’s flagship Illegal Migration Bill, which is aimed at sharply reducing the numbers of people using small boats to make the dangerous crossing from French to British shores.

The proposals aim to radically cut the avenues by which people seeking asylum in the U.K. can challenge their removal, and place a new legal duty on the home secretary to “remove illegal entrants.” The prime minister has made stopping boat crossings one of his five top political priorities.

Those plans have been condemned by human rights groups and even the European Union.