The government has admitted it is spending £4.7m a day on accommodating refugees from Afghanistan and other asylum seekers in hotels, a figure four times the amount previously stated.
Refugee organisations criticised the Home Office for the slow progress it has made towards finding permanent homes for refugees brought to the UK from Afghanistan last year. Campaigners have consistently warned that, aside from the cost, hotels are inappropriate places to house families long-term.
The Home Office was forced to clarify the cost of the policy, after the deputy permanent secretary, Tricia Hayes, told the home affairs select committee on Wednesday that a total of £1.2m was being spent every day on hotel accommodation. The department said on Thursday that this figure actually only covered the 12,000 people being resettled after being airlifted out of Kabul. Another £3.5m a day is spent on housing 25,000 more asylum seekers.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, admitted this week that the government was “absolutely struggling” to find accommodation for 12,000 people from Afghanistan who remain in hotels almost six months after being evacuated last August.
About 4,000 have been found permanent homes but the home secretary said officials were “desperately trying” to find alternative housing for the rest. “We do not have the infrastructure … in terms of housing and accommodation,” she said.
“We do not want people in hotels,” she added. “We should not be housing people in hotels.”
The clarification of the figures by the Home Office is likely to focus attention on its failure to procure longer-term homes for refugees. Ministers argue that local authorities have failed to provide the housing, while some local authorities say homes have been offered but the Home Office system to allocate them is very inefficient, leading to houses being left empty unnecessarily.
Enver Solomon, chief executive officer of the Refugee Council, described the use of hotels as “an incredibly costly and failed strategy that could be easily fixed by using public money more effectively to house people in our communities and allow them the right to work”. He said being housed in hotels caused “real harm to men, women and children who have come to our shores in search of safety”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The use of hotels is unacceptable. It is a short-term solution to the global migration crisis and we are working hard to find appropriate dispersed accommodation for migrants, asylum seekers and Afghan refugees as soon as possible. We would urge local authorities to do all they can to help house people permanently.”