The government has announced that “thousands” of asylum seekers will be housed in four military bases, including one in the prime minister’s own constituency.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick confirmed plans to house migrants at former RAF sites in Essex and Lincolnshire, as well as announcing two new sites in East Sussex and Yorkshire.
The latter, Catterick Garrison Barracks, is in Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency.
Mr Jenrick said: “The prime minister is showing leadership on this issue by bringing forward proposals to provide accommodation at Catterick Garrison Barracks in his constituency, and we’re continuing to explore the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels as they are in Scotland and in the Netherlands.”
The announcement was met with cries of “it’s not the same” from Scottish MPs.
In Scotland, cruise ships have been used to house Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.
The plans are aimed at reducing the £6.8m a day the government says it spends on hotel accommodation while acting as a deterrent to prevent Channel crossings.
However, a refugee charity said the proposed accommodation is “entirely unsuitable” to house people who have fled war, while two Conservative-led councils in the areas are threatening legal action.
Politics latest – Raab and Rayner take centre stage at PMQs
Mr Jenrick said accommodation for migrants “should meet their essential living needs and nothing more”.
He said the military sites will be “scaled up over the coming months” to provide accommodation “to several thousand asylum seekers through repurposed barrack blocks and porta cabins”.
Ahead of Mr Jenrick’s announcement, Braintree District Council said it is planning to “imminently” apply for a High Court injunction to challenge the proposed use of the Wethersfield airbase in Essex, amid concerns over the “isolated” location and impact on local services.
And West Lindsey District Council said they are considering “all options” including High Court litigation over the use of RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire – which could see the scrapping of a £300m deal aimed at turning the base into a heritage site.
Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News that the government will also “look at” putting migrants and asylum seekers on barges while their claims are processed.
Asked if such a policy would be illegal – as some suggested when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously floated it – Mr Raab said: “I don’t think it would be illegal, it depends on the circumstances, the conditions.”
But sources downplayed the likelihood of this happening imminently, saying none had been purchased yet.