The Illegal Migration Act could lock thousands of asylum seekers into limbo and in need of continuing Government support, the IPPR warned.
Government plans to tackle unauthorised migration risk creating a “perma-backlog” with thousands of asylum seekers stuck “in limbo” and in need of accommodation, a think tank has warned.
The much-criticised Illegal Migration Act, central to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel, means asylum claims of people who come to the UK illegally will not be considered and they face deportation to their home country or to a “safe” third nation such as Rwanda.
But flights destined for the east African country have yet to take off, with the policy currently awaiting an appeal decision in the courts, and there are no similar agreements with other countries.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said that even if the Rwanda deal is ruled lawful, deportations are likely to be on a small scale, meaning arrivals will continue to outpace removals.
With no pathway to legal residency in the UK, the number of people in limbo could soar, according to the IPPR’s report.
Blocked from working, they could remain reliant on costly long-term Government support and housing.
The asylum backlog has already been on an upward trend in recent years, driven by a rise in arrivals and longer turnaround times for decisions, putting pressure on Home Office accommodation.
Ministers are looking to house migrants on former military bases and a barge to reduce the expense of accommodating them in hotels, which is costing British taxpayers up to £6 million per day.
IPPR researchers estimated that accommodation costs could exceed £6 billion a year after five years if only 50 people are removed to third countries each month.
The think tank also pointed to a risk of an expanding undocumented population, vulnerable to destitution, as people avoid the official system knowing they have no right to stay or fearing removal.
Marley Morris, IPPR’s associate director for migration, trade and communities, said: “There is only a very narrow window for Government success on asylum, based on its current plan to forge ahead with the Rwanda deal and the Illegal Migration Act. Even with the Act fully implemented, under most plausible scenarios arrivals will still outpace removals.
“This will mean a growing population of people permanently in limbo, putting huge pressure on Home Office accommodation and support systems – plus a risk of thousands of people who vanish from the official system and are at risk of exploitation and destitution.
“Any incoming government would be likely to face a dire and increasingly costly challenge which it would need to address urgently from the outset – there will be no option to ignore or sideline the crisis it inherits.”
Mr Sunak has made stopping the boats one of his top five priorities ahead of next year’s likely general election.
Almost 18,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel so far this year.
Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s shadow immigration minister, said: “This report confirms what Labour has been saying all along. The Prime Minister’s new law is a con which will not solve the chaos in the immigration system the Tories have created.
“Instead, it will make it worse, keeping more people locked in limbo waiting for years for asylum decisions and the taxpayer left footing an almighty bill.”
He said a Labour government would go after criminal gangs to tackle small-boat crossings, negotiate a returns deal with the European Union and clear the asylum backlog.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Illegal Migration Act will help to clear the asylum backlog by allowing us to detain and swiftly remove those who arrive here illegally.
“While we operationalise the measures in the Act, we continue to remove those with no right to be here through existing powers.
“We are also on track to clear the ‘legacy’ backlog of asylum cases. It has been reduced by a nearly a third since the start of December and we have doubled the number of asylum decision-makers in post over the past two years.”