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Press Release: £2.7 billion a year bill to taxpayer for government’s cold-hearted refugee reforms

The taxpayer will pay an extra £2.7billion a year (1) to fund schemes to block people fleeing war and persecution from finding refugee protection in the UK under the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, reveals a new report released today (Monday 14 February 2022).

‘A Bill at What Price?’ is being published by the campaign coalition Together With Refugees, just ahead of the first vote in the House of Lords, where the Government is facing the growing threat of defeat.

With the Government also under mounting pressure from MPs to publish a long-promised Impact Assessment for the Bill – as is required for proposed new legislation – Together With Refugees has calculated the additional spending needed to pay for five major new components of the UK asylum and refugee system proposed in the Bill. These are:

· £717.6 million a year to set up and run new large, out-of-town accommodation centres to house up to 8,000 people seeking refugee protection, instead of in the community (2).

· £1.44 billion a year to set up and run a completely new offshore processing system to send people seeking refugee protection to another country to be detained while they are assessed and wait for a decision on their claim (3).

· £432 million a year to imprison people seeking refugee protection who arrive via irregular routes – such as in a small boat across the Channel – a method of arrival criminalised in the Bill (4).

· £117.4 million a year to remove people seeking refugee protection from the UK to another country if the UK government says they should claim asylum there instead (5).

· £1.5 million a year for the cost of extra bureaucratic processing for people allocated Temporary Protection Status who have already passed a rigorous assessment recognising them as a refugee but to be required an additional assessment every two and half years (6).

Gulwali Passarlay arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry at 13 years old, having fled Afghanistan in fear for his life from the Taliban. He is now an author and campaigner. He said: “If I had arrived with the Bill in place I would have been criminalised and punished me for coming here in the back of a lorry. I could have been put in prison for up to four years. I could have been sent back to a country I passed through to claim asylum, even though they were not safe for me and I was arrested and treated badly. I could have been separated from my brother and uncle and sent to offshore detention facilities, where I could be stranded in limbo for years.

“This bill is inhumane. It will mean more deaths in the Channel, further limbo for people waiting their decision, people separated overseas waiting to be processed. It will cause a lot more hardship and pain.”

Sabir Zazai, Together With Refugees spokesperson, CEO of coalition member Scottish Refugee Council and a refugee himself (7), said: “This is an astonishing amount of additional public money for the unworkable and cruel proposals in the Bill – enough to pay for more than 80,000 NHS nurses a year. Having fled their homes in fear and struggled to find safety, these measures would leave women, children and men facing further hardship in prison, isolated in another country indefinitely, separated from family and facing insecurity and indecision.

“My life was in danger from the Taliban when I fled Afghanistan to make a long and frightening journey to safety, eventually arriving in the UK in the back of a lorry. This Bill would make me a criminal and put me at risk of significant further hardship. MPs of all parties must be ready to stand up to challenge the Bill with all their might when it returns to the House of Commons in the coming weeks.”

Fundamental to the Bill is the government’s intention to block or criminalise all people seeking refugee protection arriving in the UK outside pre-arranged schemes, including those coming via irregular routes, such as by boats or lorries. These are often branded ‘illegal’ by the government despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) having said this is at odds with people’s rights under the UN Refugee Convention, and the High Court recently ruling the government was wrong to claim such journeys were illegal.

Together with Refugees is calling for an end to the proposal in the Bill to treat refugees differently based on how they arrive here, rather than the dangers they face in their home countries. It is also calling for more safe routes for people to reach protection, asking the Government to agree a target to resettle 10,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees a year.

Anybody wanting more information can visit togetherwithrefugees.org.uk or follow @RefugeeTogether on Twitter.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

(1) Note on methodology and sources

a. The total figure is made up of the cost of the five new major components in the Nationality and Borders Bill. See notes (2)-(6)

b. Projections are based on the proposals the government has set out in the New Plan for Immigration, Nationality and Borders Bill, related ministerial statements and documentation. While the government has not set out a detailed implementation plan for the new system, it has stated it intends to utilise the full spectrum of policies set out in the Bill. These costings reflect that.

c. The people set to be most subject to the provisions in the Bill are those arriving in the UK by informal means, for which we have used a (conservative) baseline figure of 28,430 people a year, based on people arriving via Channel crossings in 2021. The specific costings are based on a projected number from this cohort likely to be subject to each policy area, based on government statements wherever possible. This also avoids potential for double-counting.

d. Projected direct unit costs of each area of policy are based on real world costs of implementing similar policies, drawing wherever possible on official figures. These are also likely to be conservative. For example, the projected costs of the additional processing for people subject to Temporary Protection Status is based on the Home Office cost of processing an application for leave to remain, though the new assessment process is likely to be more time and cost-intensive.

e. The cost of each policy has been projected over five years starting from 2022, as the basis for then distilling an average annual future figure which smooths out peaks and troughs in costs.

f. The figures make allowance for inflation based on official sources, primarily the ONS and OBR.

g. The figures cover the core costs of the policies but not a range of related likely further costs – for example government legal costs for defending policies certain to be subject to legal challenge, or training staff in the new systems.

(2) Total costing based on the following assumptions:

a. Assumes the capital cost of constructing accommodation centres with capacity for up to 8,000 people as revealed in a Home Office Prior Information Notice published in August 2021 Source: https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/notice/200ecd04-fc0d-4622-8aeb-ab8f9c126780?origin=SearchResults&p=1

b. Assumes capital costs for construction and operating a centre based on a report by the National Audit Office detailing the amount spent on creating and running a similar accommodation centre in Bicester and adjusted for 2022 prices. Source: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20170207052351/https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/070819.pdf

c. Assumes asylum support costs (using 2022 rates of full board accommodation) based on a commitment made in 2020 from then Home Office Minister, Chris Philp that people in full-board accommodation would receive a weekly payment of £8. Source: https://media.refugeecouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/04120727/27.10.20-Chief-Executives.pdf

(3) Costs based on the Australian offshore processing system on which the UK government is modelling its approach. This includes both the direct cost of setting up and running the system in another country and fees paid to a host government for agreeing to house it (as paid to Nauru and Papua New Guinea by Australia). All figures based on official Australian government sources as reported here:https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/reports-and-publications/reports/budgets. It is worth noting that the hosting fees, but also many of the direct costs of managing facilities provided by private contractors would be fixed costs, regardless of the numbers of asylum seekers actually sent for processing at any particular time. As the numbers being sent offshore by Australia has dwindled this has left taxpayers paying as much as A$3.4 million (£1.8 million) a year per asylum seeker to hold them offshore – vastly more expensive than accommodating them in the community in Australia. See Australian Refugee Council and Kaldor Centre University of New South Wales.

(4) This cost has been calculated based on a comparison of the average annual cost per prisoner in the prison system being £42,670 in 2019/20 according to Ministry of Justice, Criminal Justice Statistics (December 2020). Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/criminal-justice-system-statistics-quarterly-december-2020

(5) Assumes the cost of removing an individual via Home Office chartered flight was £12,352 per person in 2021. This calculation is taken from data contained in a Home Office FOI response (22 October 2021) which outlined the total number and associated costs of deporting people from the UK for Q3 of the year 2021 (i.e. 1 July – 30 September, 2021) Source: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/796062/response/1902116/attach/3/66242%20Petit.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

(6) Total costing based on the following assumptions:

a. This cost is based on Home Office statistics ending in the year September 2021 which set out the per unit cost of processing an application for leave to remain at £142. This is the closest comparison data publicly available for conducting an assessment for Temporary Protection Status (TPS). Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/immigration-statistics-year-ending-september-2021/how-many-people-do-we-grant-asylum-or-protection-to#data-tables .

b. The New Plan for Immigration stipulates that refugees in Group 2 will be assessed every 2.5 years for TPS. Our final figure assumes that the first cohort of people assessed for TPS takes place 2.5 years after the policy is implemented with subsequent cohorts assessed each year from this point. In year 5 of the policy, the total number of people assessed is doubled to account for the first cohort reaching the 5 year mark and second round of assessment. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-plan-for-immigration/new-plan-for-immigration-policy-statement-accessible

(7) Sabir Zazai sought safety in the UK in 1999, fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan.