(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Bloomberg
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week will move to cut the flow of migrants, saying the UK government is struggling to cope with the number of arrivals.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said the government will deploy barges and unused army bases to house people seeking asylum and tell young men four people will have to share one room.
The measures are aimed at making Britain a less-attractive destination to people arriving through informal routes, especially on small boats across the English Channel.
Ministers are concerned a record 606,000 more people moved to Britain than departed last year despite a promise to reduce immigration.
"We also can't allow the UK to be perceived to be a soft touch,” Jenrick said on BBC television's Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg show. "It's placing serious pressure on public services and our ability to successfully integrate people into the country.”
Immigration has become a lightning rod for the right wing of the ruling Conservative Party after a wave of migrants arrived in small boats this spring and inflows hit a record.
Sunak has backed away from a manifesto promise to cut migration, but ministers are working on measures to deport 3,000 people a month deemed to have entered the UK illegally.
The Labour opposition has promised to cut immigration levels and says the Conservatives are to blame for letting numbers get out of control.
The issue has added to friction with business lobby groups, which are urging a relaxing of the rules to allow in workers needed to fill vacant jobs and alleviate upward pressures on wages.
"We want businesses to be in the first instance investing in British workers and technology and automation that drives productivity, not just reaching for the easy lever of foreign labor,” Jenrick told the BBC.
He said the asylum system needs "fundamental” reform because it's "riddled with abuse,” notably the government paying too much money to hotel operators for housing people.
The Illegal Migration Bill, due before the House of Lords on Wednesday, will let officials detain migrants who arrive through informal channels. The government wants to return many of them home - or to Rwanda.
"That will create the deterrent we desperately need,” Jenrick said. "It will break the business model of the people smuggling gangs, and it will stop the system from coming under intolerable pressure like it is today.”
The House of Commons on Wednesday is set to approve a bill that will confirm how and when immigrants are considered settled in the UK for citizenship purposes.
Jenrick said it's reasonable to ask asylum seekers to share rooms, brushing aside concerns of a group that refused to enter a hotel in Pimlico, where the Home Office had asked them to sleep "four people per room.”
The leader of Westminster City Council expressed "deep concern” that some 40 refugees were placed in the borough last week "without appropriate accommodation or support available,” the Press Association reported.
"We had offered them a safe bed with board and lodgings in a good-quality hotel in central London,” Jenrick said on the BBC. "Yes, some of them had to share with other people. These are single adult males, I don't think that's unreasonable.”
He said the government wants to reduce the cost to taxpayers of housing asylum seekers, saying that putting them in hotels drains "valuable assets for the local business community.”