Foreign aid budget ‘raided’ to pay Home Office’s ‘eye watering’ refugee hotel bill

The Government spent around £1 billion on refugees inside the UK in 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
The Government spent around £1 billion on refugees inside the UK in 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

The Home Office has “raided” the foreign aid budget as costs to support refugees in the UK triple, ministers claim.

The Government has spent around £1 billion of the aid budget on refugees inside the UK in 2021, including millions of pounds a day on hotel feels, a scathing report by the International Development Committee released on Thursday said.

That number is set to rise in 2022, with one estimate from the Centre for Global Development aid claiming spending on in-country refugee costs could exceed £3 billion in 2022.

MPs agree that the figure for 2022 would likely increase, due to the combination of the Ukrainian, Hong Kong and Afghan resettlement schemes and the increased numbers of migrants arriving across the Channel in small boats.

The committee cited statistics showing that UK aid spending per refugee increased from £6,700 per capita in 2019 to nearly £22,000 in 2021.

Members accused the Government of overseeing a trebling of per capita costs to support refugees in the UK, calling it “unwarranted largesse by the Home Office at the expense of both UK taxpayers and people living in the world’s poorest countries”.

Labour MP Sarah Champion, the committee chair, said: “The Home Office raid on the UK’s aid budget is running unchecked.

“It’s time to face up to Ministers and say hands off the aid budget – vulnerable people in the world’s poorest countries are being short-changed.”

She said that “haemorrhaging of funds from the FCDO’s budget to the Home Office is robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

The Government slashed the foreign aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of UK national income in 2021.

Committee members pointed out that in 2021, the Government spent around 10 per cent of the total official development assistance budget inside the UK, a figure that was larger than the percentage of funding allocated to any other sector.

International Rescue Committee policy director Daphne Jayasinghe urged the Government to return to spending the majority of th foreign aid budget in “fragile and conflict-affected states”.

“Home Office support in the UK for those fleeing conflict and persecution is essential, but should come primarily from outside the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget - not at the expense of those living through crises overseas.”

The Home Office has been accused of spending millions of pounds a day on housing refugees and asylum seekers in hotel, amid a backlog in cases and slow processes for long-term accommodation.

In October the Commons Home Affairs Committee was told £5.6 million a day was being spent on hotels for people who have arrived in the UK and have submitted a claim, with an additional £1.2 million paid to house Afghan refugees who fled the Taliban takeover while long-term accommodation is sought.

The total £6.8 million is over £2 million more than the Government said it was spending in February (£4.7 million).

A number of Afghanistan refugees and asylum seekers have reported feeling unsafe or like the hotel “is a prison” as many of them are confined to a small room for six months or more without employment.

Local councils have urged the Government to boost funding and improve accessibility to suitable local housing.

A Government spokesperson said: “The government has acted decisively and compassionately to support the people of Ukraine and Afghanistan to escape oppression and conflict and find refuge in the UK, and at the Autumn Statement we provided an additional £2.5 billion to help meet the increased costs of this support.

“We report all aid spending in line with the OECD’s rules – which allow funding to be spent on food and shelter for asylum seekers and refugees for their first year in the UK.

“The UK Government spent more than £11 billion in aid in 2021 and remains one of the largest global aid donors with most of it still going towards supporting the poorest communities around the world, helping tackle deadly diseases and getting millions of girls into school.”