Thousands of new staff would ‘cut asylum backlog and end hotel and barge use’

Hotels, barges and former military sites would no longer be used to house asylum seekers under a Labour government, the party said as it promised new staff to cut the current claims backlog.

Sir Keir Starmer this week used a visit to The Hague in the Netherlands to push his party’s proposed solution to the small boats crisis as a way of “taking control” of the situation.

The party said it would recruit more than 1,000 Home Office caseworkers – a 50% increase on current staffing levels – to end the asylum backlog, which shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said would end the use of hotels and other sites.

Labour is also promising to fast-track decisions on applications from “safe” countries, namely Albania and India, while also creating temporary so-called “Nightingale asylum courts” to speed up legal challenges.

A new returns unit, again backed by 1,000 staff, would also be created to triage and fast-track removals.

Keir Starmer visit to Netherlands
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper have condemned the Government’s handling of small boats crossings (PA)

Ms Cooper said: “Tory chaos at our borders and in the asylum system is costing taxpayers billions and must come to an end. All we have had from this Government is gimmicks, not grip.

“Labour has a serious plan to end the Government’s wasteful spending on hotels and return people who have no right to be here.

“These plans will go hand in hand with our plans to stop the criminal smuggling gangs, put stronger powers in place and get a new security agreement including working with Europol so that we can tackle the problem at source.

“Labour will take back control of our asylum system. We know the British public want to see strong border security and a properly controlled and fair asylum system, and that’s what we’ll deliver.”

The party said that once the current backlog is clear there will be no need for hotels, barges or former military bases, which Labour claims are costing taxpayers more than £2 billion a year.

It said the current proposals are time-limited to tackle the backlog, with new staff employed on two-year contracts.