The Daily Telegraph

Half of foreign aid spent in UK owing to asylum claims

- By Samuel Lovett

THE UK is housing so many asylum seekers that more than half the foreign aid budget earmarked for poor countries is now being spent in Britain, new figures suggest.

In 2023 the UK spent £9.9 billion in bilateral aid – yet 54 per cent was used domestical­ly, according to the Center for Global Developmen­t (CGD), which analysed data released by the Foreign Office yesterday. This was an increase from 48 per cent the previous year.

Britain’s bilateral aid money is supposed to be spent on helping poorer nations alleviate poverty and respond to humanitari­an disasters.

However, in recent years, an increasing proportion has been spent within Britain itself to support the rising number of refugees entering the country. The cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels alone is £8million a day, according to Home Office data.

Sarah Champion, chair of the Internatio­nal Developmen­t Committee (IDC), said the rising trend in spending foreign aid domestical­ly was limiting what could be allocated overseas and was “deeply worrying”. She said: “We [the IDC] have expressed our concerns on a number of occasions and ministers are still not listening.”

The Foreign Office’s latest figures show that the financial aid given bilaterall­y to poorer nations last year decreased by nearly 10 per cent, falling to £4.1 billion from £4.6 billion in 2022.

Gideon Rabinowitz, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Bond, an NGO network, said the figures demonstrat­ed that “the government seems to have lost its grip on UK aid spending”.

He added that internatio­nal organisati­ons “are once again seeing vital funding for emergency support programmes in Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere being cut or held back, and we suspect this is due to escalating Home Office asylum costs taking an increasing chunk of the UK aid budget.”

The aid money spent within Britain is predominan­tly used to house and support asylum seekers during the first 12 months of their stay in the UK. This includes payments for refugees’ transport to and within the UK and temporary food, accommodat­ion and training.

Of the £5.3 billion estimated to have been spent out of the bilateral aid budget in the UK last year, the vast majority (£4.3 billion) was used for domestic refugee costs, the CGD said.

Britain also used its bilateral aid to fund research projects linked to overseas issues and “administra­tive costs”.

A UK government spokesman said: “Last year’s budget was boosted by additional funding to support refugees in the UK, who have escaped oppression and conflict overseas, including from Ukraine and Afghanista­n. We will continue to ensure our aid budget delivers value for money for British taxpayers.”

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