Published: 2023-04-06 20:56
Last Updated: 2023-09-29 07:02
Wednesday, Britain announced plans to house around 500 asylum seekers on a barge, as the government seeks cost-cutting measures and deterrents for arrivals crossing the Channel.
Following his pledge to stop the small boats used by tens of thousands of migrants each year to make the treacherous trip, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the barge would save money and reduce pressure on hotels.
The Conservative government has already put forth a plan to outlaw asylum claims by all illegal arrivals and transfer them to "safe" third countries, such as Rwanda.
"We have to use alternative accommodation options, as our European neighbours are doing –- including the use of barges and ferries to save the British taxpayer money and to prevent the UK becoming a magnet for asylum shoppers in Europe," said Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.
But charity group Refugee Council said the barge will be "completely inadequate" for "vulnerable people who have come to our country in search of safety having fled beatings and death threats in countries such as Afghanistan and Iran".
The barge that will be berthed in Portland Port is the first of its kind in the UK and will accommodate single men while their asylum claims are processed, with the first residents due in the "coming months".
"We can't have a situation (where) we are collectively spending GBP 6 million a day on hotels for illegal asylum seekers," said Sunak.
"We're bringing forward alternative sites, like indeed the barge that we've announced today, that will save us money and indeed reduce pressure on hotels," he added.
The "Bibby Stockholm", which is to be operational for at least 18 months, will provide basic accommodation and healthcare, catering facilities and round-the-clock security.
It was previously used by the Netherlands and Germany to house asylum seekers.