Suella Braverman buys ‘marquees’ to house 2,000 Channel migrants in emergency bid to avoid hotel costs

28 July 2023, 09:37

The Home Office is set to house migrants in marquees under new plans.
The Home Office is set to house migrants in marquees under new plans. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

The Home Secretary has bought ‘marquees’ to home up to 2,000 migrants on former military sites by the end of next month.

The Home Office has purchased the tents for migrants in the last few days and will start constructing them in the coming weeks on disused military sites.

It is expected between 1,000 and 2,000 beds will be in the marquees by the end of next month, a government source said.

It comes after Border Force revealed an unexpected prediction for migrant crossings in the next three months, which is anticipated to see a surge and be the busiest time for migrant crossings this year.

The predictions mirror the surge in arrivals in 2022, where 51% of the year’s 45,755 small boat crossings arrived in the same period - between August, September and October.

A source at the Home Office said: “It’s obvious we can’t again be in a position where we’re having to spot-book expensive hotels on the fly for migrants. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of temporary accommodation when needed. Other countries do use it as well.”

But the plans have faced scrutiny from some in the government, as a similar proposal was made under Boris Johnson’s government but were rejected amid concerns it could present legal challenges over treating migrants inhumanely.

Some even compared the previous proposal to concentration camps, according to The Times.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper slammed the plans and accused the government of "simply not taking decisions" which would allow them to clear the UK's asylum backlog.

Shadow Home Secretary: Tory government is 'simply not taking decisions' to clear the asylum backlog

Read more: First small boat migrants arrive at former RAF base - look inside the camp set to house 1,700 people by autumn

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Military sites without basic facilities such as toilets and showers will be provided with portable versions, and there will be heaters on standby for any unexpected changes in weather.

It comes after last the Home Office acquired temporary marquees at the Manston processing centre last year for the same reasons, but these were only ever intended to be used for a few days.

This is just one of many recent attempts from the Home Office to source alternative ways to house migrants in a bid to avoid the cost of hotels, by uses sites such as barges and military bases.

The Home Office reportedly started buying the tents in the last week.
The Home Office reportedly started buying the tents in the last week. Picture: Alamy

It has also emerged that a number of migrants who were housed on the former RAF Wethersfield site in Braintree, Essex earlier this month have been diagnosed with various diseases.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The welfare of people accommodated at Wethersfield is of the utmost priority.

“All appropriate protocols are being followed in accordance with UK Health Security Agency guidance to manage a small number of positive results for Tuberculosis (TB) currently at Wethersfield.

“The cases are being isolated pre-emptively and we are confirming whether they have active TB.”

Migrants were housed in 'marquees' in the Manston processing centre temporarily last year.
Migrants were housed in 'marquees' in the Manston processing centre temporarily last year. Picture: Alamy
It comes amid new predictions from Border Force of a surge in Channel crossings.
It comes amid new predictions from Border Force of a surge in Channel crossings. Picture: Getty

Those moved onto the site came from small boat crossings, and the Home Office said those moved would receive full medical checks beforehand, but this did not go ahead.

The Home Office’s new tents for migrants, which are expected to go up by August, were allegedly proposed by the department as an alternative to housing migrants when there is a surge in arrivals, as the current emergency “buffer” of around 5,000 empty rooms costs about £500,000 a day.

Those moved to the new tents could spend several weeks there, but a government source said they will be moved out before the winter months.

It comes after the High Court ruled on Thursday that housing lone child migrants in hotels over the last 18 months was unlawful, as this solution was only lawful for “very short periods in true emergency situations”.

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