TORY ministers have unveiled plans to house asylum seekers in disused military bases, barges and ferries amidst widespread condemnation by opposition politicians, charities and their own party.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, made the announcement on Wednesday to reduce the “eye-watering” reliance on hotels.

He confirmed that up to 3700 people will be housed at RAF Wethersfield in Essex and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, with an extra 1200 going to a separate site in East Sussex.

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The plans have already divided opinion amongst the Conservative Party, with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly criticising suggestions that a base in his Essex constituency would be used.

Charities said the military accommodation is “grossly inadequate” to house people who have fled war.

Alex Fraser, the British Red Cross’s UK director for refugee support, said the proposed sites are “entirely inappropriate for people and will lead to significant suffering”.

“Military sites, by their very nature, can re-traumatise people who have fled war and persecution. These sites may also put vulnerable people at risk of exploitation,” he added.

Amnesty International UK’s Steve Valdez-Symonds said the “huge and expensive backlog” in asylum claims – which he blames on the UK Government – is “no excuse for failing to treat people properly”.

The National:

Jenrick told the Commons the Tory government remained committed to its “legal obligations” to house the destitute but said “we’re not prepared to go further”.

“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,” he said.

The minister also announced he is “continuing to explore the possibility” of using ferries and barges.

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SNP MP Joanna Cherry told the Commons: “These proposals are highly reminiscent of the internment camps for refugees in the BBC series Years And Years, which was on during lockdown.

“If you didn’t see it, it was really about the decline of modern Britain and it ended with the election of a fascist populist prime minister.”

Cherry mentioned how Ukrainian refugees have been temporarily accommodated in “high-quality former ferry accommodation” at Leith docks, which is adjacent to her constituency.

She suggested that Jenrick should visit to see how it is “extremely different from the industrial barges he’s proposing”.

She added: “Does he appreciate that if the UK Government dumps refugees from other countries into the sort of poor-quality accommodation that he’s describing, the United Kingdom may face a claim of racial discrimination under article 14 of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights)?”

Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman (below) also condemned the move. In a statement, she said: “It is quite clear that the UK Government does not think asylum seekers are worthy of humane treatment. Housing them in military bases as a money saving technique is a deliberate and conscious decision to make life even harder for some of the most vulnerable people in our country.

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“Right now, there are many hundreds of vulnerable adults and children, including survivors of trafficking, stuck in grossly inadequate institutional-style accommodation, and, rather than addressing this, these plans will make a terrible situation even worse.

“Every week there seems to be yet another eye-catching and repressive new initiative that is designed to punish and scapegoat people who have fled some of the world’s worst conflict zones. The Home Office is trying to dismantle the remaining support for refugees as part of a cynical and calculated attempt to score political points regardless of the consequences.

“These plans come from the same racist mindset that has led to dawn raids, severe working restrictions, detention in prison-like conditions and deportation flights to Rwanda. They are the actions of a disgraceful and shameless Tory Party that has never seen a vulnerable community that it didn’t want to punch down against.

“With independence we can finally end the institutional brutality of the Home Office and build a humane and welcoming policy that recognises the support and dignity that all people should have a right to.”