The government is spending billions in aid, meant for overseas projects, here at home. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), a watchdog organisation, warned that the Home Office is spending up to a third of foreign aid within the UK. This came about because aid money can be drawn on in the first year of a refugee‘s stay.
As the watchdog explained:
Under international aid rules, the first year of some of the costs associated with supporting refugees and asylum seekers who arrive in a donor country qualifies as official development assistance (ODA). This category of aid is referred to as ‘in-donor refugee costs’.
It’s housing and accommodation costs that ramp up the exorbitant figures. In 2022, up to £4.7m per day went on accommodation for Afghan refugees alone.
The ICAI’s rapid review:
examines UK aid spent on refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK, which it estimates to be around £3.5 billion in 2022, approximately one third of the UK’s total aid spend that year.
The availability of these staggering amounts, the report adds, reduces the incentives for government departments to reduce their use of aid money. Plus, the UK’s failing asylum system makes the problem even worse:
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Soaring costs resulting from the failure to tackle the processing backlog and competition for scarce accommodation have absorbed a growing proportion of the limited budget for aid, making it an inefficient way of providing humanitarian assistance.
Additionally, conditions for refugees in hotels are extremely poor. Asylum seekers housed in this way often lack basic necessities like clothing. They are also frequently develop mental health issues, and are harassed by the far right.
Aid money cap
ICAI heard a lot of anecdotal evidence of safeguarding lapses, particularly for women and girls, who face significant risks of harassment and even gender-based violence while in hotel accommodation.
Another reason for the wild aid spending is that there is no cap. This means departments can use aid money with little restraint. The ICAI said:
The government should consider introducing a cap on the proportion of the aid budget that can be spent on in-donor refugee costs (as Sweden has proposed to do for 2023-24) or, alternatively, introduce a floor to FCDO’s aid spending, to avoid damage to the UK’s aid objectives and reputation.
The government’s gross dereliction of duty over the foreign aid budget beggars belief. Its spending to support refugees should come out of domestic budgets – not be syphoned off from the aid budget at the expense of people in other countries, who are often also in desperate need.
Moreover, it’s not even spending this money well. The Home Office leaves refugees languishing in the asylum system, invariably in squalid conditions, and under the constant threat of attacks from the far right. However, the biggest threat to refugees comes from the government itself – which is about to persecute them further by housing them in former military bases.
It’s time that the government fixed our broken, unfair, grossly negligent, and mismanaged asylum system – and while it’s at it, fix the foreign aid budget, too.Support us and go ad-free
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