"Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more," Minister Jenrick said.
The British government has been widely criticized for its plans to accommodate asylum seekers who enter the United Kingdom (UK) illegally on disused military sites.
On Wednesday, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick told the House of Commons that surplus military sites in Essex and Lincolnshire will be "scaled up over the coming months" and will provide accommodation to thousands of asylum seekers. The possibility of accommodating migrants on boats is also under consideration.
"Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more because we cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects," Jenrick said.
This move is a follow-up on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's commitment to reduce the pressure on the UK asylum system and the cost to taxpayers caused by illegal crossings. However, the plan has been dismissed as counterproductive by some MPs and civil organizations.
"This won't end hotel use. Instead, these sites are additional," said Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary of the main opposition Labour Party.
The UK spent around 3.5 billion pounds (US$4.31 billion) in 2022 on helping refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the country, amounting to roughly one third of its total aid spending that year, according to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.
The Tories didn't create the “hostile environment” for refugees & migrants. Consecutive Home Secretaries, like Theresa May, Priti Patel, and now Suella Braverman, may have taken it to a new level—but the foundations go way back. @sueconlan explains how https://t.co/XSVZAPj9py— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) March 31, 2023
Some private companies are making hefty profits as the UK government spends large sums every day on accommodating more than 51,000 asylum seekers in nearly 400 hotels. Rather than focusing on the financial aspects, the Refugee Council emphasized the human side of the problem.
"These (plans) do not provide any serious, workable solutions... Instead, we should be providing accommodation that treats people with humanity, dignity and compassion," the Refugee Council said.
Meanwhile, Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said the local authority will issue an immediate judicial review against the government's "thoroughly bad decision." Gainsborough is a town in Lincolnshire, a county home to one of the military sites mentioned by the immigration minister.
The issue of how to treat asylum seekers has divided UK politicians and the British public for some time now, with several protests marking the seriousness of the problem in February.
Last year, 16,649 people were given refugee status in the UK, after authorities processed a record high number of asylum applications, probably the highest in 20 years.