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Watchdog Warns: Additional £2 Billion per Year Required by Government to Accommodate Migrants

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) has warned that the Home Office will need an additional £2 billion per year to fund the housing of illegal migrants under the new “stop the boats” law. The ICAI stated that ministers may be prevented from diverting funds from the foreign aid budget to cover asylum costs. The new law, which received Royal Assent in July, will prohibit the use of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget to accommodate migrants in hotels. Last year, the Home Office spent £2.4 billion of the foreign aid budget on asylum costs, with £1.9 billion used to house migrants in hotels. The ICAI highlighted that the new law will close off the main source of funding for housing asylum seekers. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stipulates that aid funding can only be used for “in-donor refugee costs” if individuals are awaiting an asylum decision. If migrants who arrive in the UK illegally are deemed ineligible for asylum, aid funding cannot be used for accommodation pending their removal. The ICAI’s report has been deemed a “spectacular own goal” by MP Sarah Champion. The enforcement of the Illegal Migration Act, which plans to deport illegal arrivals to Rwanda, has been paused pending a legal challenge. Judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that Rwanda had not provided sufficient safeguards to prove it is a “safe third country.” Two out of three judges found that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda could be forced back to their original country, in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ICAI report highlighted that the Home Office will have to cover the costs from its own budget rather than the Foreign Office’s budget. The report also emphasized that using the aid budget for hotel costs instead of supporting individuals in their home countries is both inequitable and inefficient. The Home Office is still evaluating the impact of the Act on ODA spending, but has stated that it operates in accordance with OECD rules. The government aims to deter individuals from risking their lives in dangerous crossings on small boats and has noted that the Illegal Migration Act means illegal arrivals will not have the right to stay in the UK and could be returned to their home or a safe third country, thereby disrupting the business model of people smugglers and easing the strain on the asylum system.

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