LONDON: According to a parliamentary report, the British government is allocating up to a third of its overseas aid budget toward providing shelter for refugees in the United Kingdom.
Aid spending per refugee in the UK nearly tripled in three years, from £6,700 in 2019 to £21,700 in 2021, according to the international development select committee study.
Members of the committee claimed they were unable to obtain accurate data on ongoing government spending. However, it is estimated that in 2021 the UK will have spent over £1 billion (or roughly 10% of the total aid budget) on refugees.
The committee reportedly stated that the government’s political decision to spend so much on refugees in the UK was the cause of the trend, despite the fact that international rules defining legitimate aid do not require the government to do so.
Money for a refugee’s first year in the United Kingdom must be paid for, and the government allows the Home Office to take that money from the Foreign Office’s overseas aid budget.
The report states that between 2018 and 2021, the United Kingdom will spend more than any other OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) country on refugees. This amount is roughly three times the DAC average of £7,400.
More than £2.6 billion in ODA is planned to be dispersed by the Home Office between 2022 and 2023, nearly £2 billion more than the original estimate.
The main cause is that the number of asylum seekers staying in “contingency accommodation,” primarily hotels, rose from under 2,600 to over 37,000 between March 2020 and September 2022, as reported by the Guardian.
Consequently, in 2021, the United Kingdom cut its bilateral aid to the world’s poorest countries by half.
In the absence of official data, the committee relied on claims made by the Center for Global Development, which predicted that by 2022, aid to refugees already within the country could reach £3 billion, an increase of over 300 percent from 2020 levels.
These costs could reach £4.5 billion in 2022-23, or one-third of the total aid budget, according to Save the Children, a UK-based charity.
‘There has been a determined effort to prevent us from seeing the full picture,’ Sarah Champion, the committee chair, told the Guardian.
The government has made deliberate efforts to obstruct our oversight responsibilities.
We were unable to get any clear answers from the UK government regarding how the ODA budget is being spent.
According to a statement released by the Foreign Office, “the government has acted decisively and compassionately to support the people of Ukraine and Afghanistan to escape oppression and conflict and find refuge in the UK,” and that in the autumn statement, an additional £2.5 billion was provided to help cover the increased costs of this support.
Spending on food and shelter for asylum seekers and refugees during their first year in the UK is included in our reported aid spending because these expenses are permitted under OECD rules.
The majority of the United Kingdom’s aid budget of over £11 billion in 2021 went toward continuing to help the world’s poorest communities, combat deadly diseases, and get millions of girls educated.