UK refugee crisis spirals out of control, military bases prep to handle overflow
The British government in the next few weeks is set to announce plans to start moving migrants onto military bases and disused ferries, according to a report.
Asylum seekers who have crossed the English Channel by boat have remained in hotels, but the government aims to end that program and move them to different facilities. Other proposals include the use of holiday camps and college dorms, but Sky News reports that those are “less likely” to happen.
Royal Air Force Base Scampton in Lincolnshire would be able to house some 1,500 migrants – a fraction of the roughly 45,000 people who crossed the Channel in 2022.
Only about 300 people reached Britain by water in 2018, but that number rose to 8,500 in 2020 and 28,000 in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic closed rail air and ship travel, forcing those still seeking asylum in the United Kingdom to travel by boat.
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Most of the migrants travel from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, but many are “economic migrants” from Albania and other Eastern European countries.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to table an illegal immigration bill in parliament next week, with some critics saying it unfairly targets Albanians, according to Sky News. Sunak said that Albanians accounted for some one-third of asylum seekers last year.
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The five-point plan would create a new enforcement group of 700 people who would directly tackle the issue of boats crossing the channel, end the use of hotels to house migrants, increase the number of caseworkers to process asylum applications and designate Albania as a “safe country,” which would allow the U.K. to reject asylum applications.
The government had housed asylum seekers in army barracks in Kent and Wales during the pandemic, but critics called it a “serious error of judgment” after it led to a serious outbreak at one of the sites.
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Residents also said they had no idea how long they would stay on the base. The conditions led members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration and Detention to write then-Home Secretary Priti Patel to express “serious concern” over the “very serious risk of harm” to residents at the base.
Sarah Carter, who lived near RAF Base Scampton, argued that the base and surrounding area didn’t have the infrastructure necessary to support the influx of migrants.
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“If the government actually came and visited the camp, they would see that is a ludicrous idea,” Carter said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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