London: According to internal government projections obtained by the BBC, the cost to UK authorities of holding and deporting people over the following two years under the nation's contentious new Illegal Migration Bill could reach £6 billion ($7.5 billion).
The legislation, which was approved by the House of Commons in April, includes provisions that will make it simpler to detain individuals who enter the UK unlawfully, particularly those who do so via small boats crossing the English Channel, and to return them to their home countries or other third-party countries.
The anticipated costs of the legislation have been kept a secret by the Conservative government. On the other hand, the Home Office predicts that it will need to spend between £3 billion and £6 billion on detention centres, lodging, and deportations, according to a report from the BBC on Monday.
The bill will be expensive and complicated, according to sources at the Home Office; one insider acknowledged that its implementation will present a "major logistical challenge." The BBC was informed by a senior government source that the bill might limit government spending.
Home Office representatives anticipate that the legislation will serve as a deterrent and that costs will decrease over time as fewer people are detained. Although the Treasury has publicly backed the policy, insiders are reportedly worried that the deterrence component has not been sufficiently demonstrated. This deterrence effect was referred to as a "unknown factor" by a Home Office source familiar with the bill because it cannot be predicted.
The Home Office is clearly aware that so-called deterrence measures simply don't work, and it is preparing to detain thousands of desperate people who will arrive on our shores looking for protection, according to Jon Featonby, chief policy analyst at the Refugee Council, who spoke to the BBC.
"Refugees who are fleeing violence and persecution will continue to take risks in order to reach our country until they are provided with a safe route to apply for asylum.
"The government should be concentrating on creating a system that protects the right to claim asylum and that prioritises both compassion and control, rather than moving forward with this enormously expensive and ineffective crackdown on refugees seeking safety in the UK," said one expert.
The key question, according to Rob McNeil, the deputy director of Oxford University's Migration Observatory, is whether the bill will discourage people from trying to enter the UK. The costs, he noted, are already "very, very high," and he claimed that if asylum applications were processed more quickly, there would be fewer migrants entering.
The BBC quoted Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary for the opposition Labour Party, as saying: "The Conservatives are in total chaos on asylum and their new bill is a sham that will make the soaring costs far worse."
The bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords, where it has encountered opposition from members of the government's Conservative Party. The government declared that it would soon make public its analysis of the bill's economic effects