Britain has spent about half a million pounds in the past year storing small boats used by migrants to cross the Channel, according to internal government estimates.
Legislation requires the state to keep the boats for 12 months in case an owner comes forward to claim them.
Government sources said that nobody had come forward to claim a single one of the boats in the past year, which they said was unsurprising given that they are bought by people smugglers for single-use journeys across the Channel.
After a year has lapsed, many boats are no longer seaworthy and cannot be repurposed for good causes, leaving officials with no choice but to dispose of them.
Ministers are expected to reverse the “absurd” law this year, allowing Border Force to sell the boats or donate them to charity if they are seaworthy, a source said.
Hundreds of boats have been seized by Border Force this year after people smugglers used them to ferry 10,525 migrants across the Channel.
The boats are initially stored in a fenced-off compound in Dover before being transported to storage depots known as Queen’s Warehouses because goods stored there become “forfeit to the Crown”. The secure locations are used to store material that has been seized or detained by Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs and the National Crime Agency.
Examples of goods seized at the border include firearms, prohibited drugs, and excise goods such as cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol.
The storage of hundreds of boats, which are much larger than other goods stored at the warehouses, has increased costs, which are met by the taxpayer.
An internal estimate of how much it costs to transport, store and dispose of the small boats that have been seized by Border Force has been put at £500,000 a year, a source told The Times.
Under Section 26 of the UK Borders Act 2007 and the Immigration Disposal of Property Regulations 2008, goods must be stored at Queen’s Warehouses for 12 months.
Some boats are kept longer in case they are needed as evidence to prosecute people smugglers after investigations by the police or the National Crime Agency.
The Nationality and Borders Bill, which is going through parliament, will remove this section of the law, making it no longer applicable to “ships or other property”.
Instead, the boats will be sold to raise money for charities or donated to organisations such as the Sea Cadets if they are deemed safe.
Some money raised could go to “recouping the costs of running the asylum system”, a source said, citing Home Office figures showing that it has risen to more than £1 billion a year — the highest amount in two decades.
Peter Bone, the Conservative MP, said that spending £500,000 a year on storing the boats was “a complete waste of money”.
“What people smuggler is going to turn up at the Home Office and say, ‘You’ve got my boat, please can I have it back?’ ” he said.
“Rather than clogging up warehouses costing us half a million a year, let’s sell them off to raise money to charities fighting human trafficking or give them to the RNLI.”
A Home Office official said: “Any boats that may be used as evidence to prosecute vile people smugglers are stored as investigations continue.
“Current legislation also obliges us to keep items for a short period in case an owner wishes to claim them.
“New laws in the Nationality and Borders Bill will enable us to dispose of vessels much quicker or where suitable donate them to worthy causes in the UK.”