Labour has promised to end the use of hotels for asylum seekers if it gets into power at the next election.
Outlining its latest policy pledges, the party said it would also clear the growing backlog of asylum cases and speed up the return of those who fail to meet the threshold.
As a result of its measures, Labour claimed long-standing facilities for housing asylum applicants – with space for 58,000 people – would be sufficient, meaning not only would hotels becomes redundant, but so would barges and military sites.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Tory chaos at our borders and in the asylum system is costing taxpayers billions and must come to an end. All we have had from this government is gimmicks not grip.
“Labour has a serious plan to end the government’s wasteful spending on hotels and return people who have no right to be here.”
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Figures from the Home Office at the end of August showed more than 51,000 asylum seekers were being housed in hotels, costing around £6m per day, while the full bill for the accommodation in the last financial year was £2.28bn.
The backlog of asylum claims in the UK hit a record high in the same month, with a total of 175,457 people waiting for an initial decision on their application – up 44% from 2022 and the highest figure since records began in 2010.
Of those, 139,961 had been waiting more than six months – a 57% increase from last year and another record high.
Labour plans to tackle these figures by hiring over 1,000 new caseworkers for the Home Office, with increased pay to “improve productivity”, and recruiting 1,000 staff to man a new returns unit, with fast-track decisions on applications from safe countries processed “within weeks”.
It would also create so-called Nightingale courts – echoing the pop-up facilities brought in post-COVID – to speed up any legal challenges to asylum decisions and ensure removals are processed.
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This latest announcement comes after the party received a mixed response to its plan to strike a new returns agreement with the EU to tackle migration figures.
Labour confirmed it could accept a quota of migrants to get a deal over the line as it sought “management and control of the system” after the Conservatives had “lost control of our borders”.
But Tory critics thrashed the announcement, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claiming it would see the UK accept 100,000 migrants from the EU every year – although he did not say how he had calculated the figure.
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Mr Sunak has made tackling illegal migration – especially when it comes to small boat crossings of the Channel – one of his five priorities in government, backing measures such as deporting some migrants to Rwanda and housing people on barges.
But both schemes have hit barriers, with Rwanda flights caught up in the courts and an outbreak of Legionella disease on the Bibby Stockholm vessel.
But the prime minister has repeatedly defended the government’s progress, saying: “We’ve already reduced the legacy backlog by over 28,000 – nearly a third – since the start of December and we remain on track to meet our target.”