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Home Office Buys Tents To House Asylum Seekers

Tents could be used to house up to 2,000 migrants on disused military sites next month, under plans drawn up by the home secretary, Suella Braverman, in an effort to avoid accommodating asylum seekers in hotels.

The Home Office bought the marquees in recent days ahead of an expected rise in small boat crossings in August, despite warnings by some in government that housing asylum seekers in tents could trigger legal challenges based on inhumane treatment.

More than 14,000 people have made unauthorised crossings already this year, despite Rishi Sunak’s vow to “stop the boats”, and the summer is expected to be the busiest time for crossings. Last year, a record 47,755 people arrived in the UK by small boats, with 51% of the arrivals taking place in August, September and October.

Last autumn, the Home Office erected a number of temporary marquees at the Manston processing centre, in the grounds of a former army barracks, with Home Office employees later reporting people slept on mats on the floor in overcrowded conditions and were shut up without access to fresh air. “None of it had been set up with decent hygiene facilities, bedding or anything,” an official, who asked not to be identified, told the Guardian. “I saw people lying on opened-up cardboard boxes … It was pretty awful to see.”

While these makeshift tents were not designed to be used for more than a few days, the new tents bought by Braverman will be erected alongside other “temporary facilities” such as portable toilets and showers, with heaters “on standby” if temperatures drop, the Times reported.

A government source told the newspaper that a similar proposal to use tents was put forward under Boris Johnson’s government, but was rejected due to fears it would lead to legal challenges. It was even compared with concentration camps by some in government, the newspaper was told.

The Home Office refused to confirm the report but said the government’s position for some time has been that the use of hotels to accommodate asylum seekers is “not acceptable” and that the Home Office is working across government departments to look at “a range of accommodation options” for asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, it is understood that a small number of positive results for tuberculosis have been detected among those housed at the former RAF site at Wethersfield in Braintree, Essex. Tests are under way to see if the cases are active.

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Other asylum seekers at the site have been diagnosed with scabies and there is one case of scurvy.

The Home Office told the Times there was no risk to the wider public.

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