The ongoing campaign to get migrants out of hotels was backed by Conservative MPs.
Sir John Hayes, a former minister, said: “It’s important to get these people out of hotels because of the immense cost to the taxpayer and the fact that many of my constituents would resent being put in hotels where they can’t. They can’t afford to stay if they want to.
“I am in favor of concentrating arrivals and the barges are a great idea. Other accommodation is desirable as well.”
Craig Mackinlay, the South Thanet MP, said the use of alternative accommodation could play a role in reducing further deaths in the Channel.
“This type of accommodation, whether it be office blocks, ex-student accommodation or floating barges, cannot cause any harm as a deterrent effect,” he said.
“Being put on a barge is not going to be as attractive as a three or four star hotel in Pimlico.
Student housing debate
However, with universities also facing a national shortage of student housing before the start of next month’s term, figures from the higher education sector called into question whether unused rooms would have a major impact.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, said: “Clearly, a well-designed student accommodation block would be quite appropriate.
“But there is a huge shortage of student housing right now, not a surplus.
Hillman said there were a few places where such schemes might be possible, because “the student housing market is very different in different cities.”
And he added: “There are one or two towns and cities where there is a surplus. Coventry is one.”
Earlier in the year, the Home Office overcame resistance from local council to move the migrants to a former student accommodation complex in Coventry with a capacity of more than 100 people.
However, Hillman said student accommodation owners would also be wary of a backlash from their core clients.
He said: “Would a student accommodation provider want to potentially damage its reputation among students by doing Home Office work for them?”
A university sector source agreed that the potential for housing immigrants in unused student accommodation would vary significantly across the country.
In addition to Coventry, the source singled out Leicester, Portsmouth, Lincoln, Stoke-on-Trent and Huddersfield as areas with surplus seats.
Cities including Durham, Southampton, Glasgow, Bristol and York are unlikely to pick up the slack due to their particularly acute housing shortages, the source added.
The government is also expected to increase the use of defense property, and officials are encouraged by the fact that legal deals have so far not stopped migrants from being moved to former military sites such as Wethersfield in Essex.
The Telegraph understands that another base, RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, will start receiving migrants from next month.
Last week, the number of migrants crossing the Channel topped 100,000 since the first ships reached UK shores in 2018. On Thursday, a daily record 755 disembarked from small boats.