UK to house migrants on barge


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London on Wednesday added to its controversial arsenal to fight illegal immigration the use of a barge docked in an English port to house 500 asylum seekers, in order to reduce costs, deter Channel crossings and “reduce minimum disruption to the local population”.

The British government announced on Wednesday, April 5, its intention to use a barge docked in an English port to accommodate 500 asylum seekers.

In the wake of his promise to “stop the boats” used by tens of thousands of migrants each year to make the dangerous crossing, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has touted a solution to “save money and reduce pressure on hotels.

Asked by British television, he highlighted his government’s “sensible” and “fair” approach to the fight against illegal immigration, which also plans to deport migrants who arrived illegally on British soil to Rwanda. .

In a press release, the Ministry of the Interior highlighted an “important step” in this promise “to stop the boats”.

The barge, named “Bibby Stockholm”, will be moored in the port of Portland, in the south of England, and operational for 18 months. It will be able to “accommodate around 500 men while their asylum applications are being considered”, the Home Office said.

It will offer “basic and functional facilities”, 24-hour care and security on board, “to minimize disruption to the local population”.

A solution used in the Netherlands and Scotland

Sharply criticized for this project recently mentioned by the Secretary of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick, the government points out that this solution has been used in the Netherlands, but also in Scotland, to welcome Ukrainian refugees.

“The use of expensive hotels to house those making unnecessary and dangerous journeys must end,” Robert Jenrick said in a statement Wednesday. “We will not elevate the interests of illegal migrants above those of the Britons we are elected to serve.”

“We need to use alternative accommodation options, as our European neighbors do, including the use of barges and ferries to save UK taxpayers money and prevent the UK from becoming a magnet” for asylum seekers, he explained.

This announcement aroused opposition from the local authority concerned and human rights associations.

“Confining hundreds of people to solitary confinement on a barge is just more theater the government has created to mask its blatant mismanagement of the asylum system,” said Steve Valdez-Symonds, head of Refugees and Migrant Rights Section at Amnesty International UK. Denouncing the “cruelty” of the project, he asked for it to be abandoned.

The director of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, meanwhile, slammed a “totally inappropriate” initiative, far from bringing “the respect, the dignity, the support” that asylum seekers deserve.

Disused military sites

According to the government, hosting migrants in hotels costs six million pounds a day (6.84 million euros), 2.3 billion pounds sterling (2.6 billion euros) a year.

In December, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he wanted to cut the bill for accommodation for asylum seekers in half.

Last week, the government announced that two disused military sites would also be used. The project, which has sparked criticism from associations and concern from local elected officials, ultimately aims to accommodate thousands of migrants.

Last year, a record number of migrants – more than 45,000 – reached English shores crossing the English Channel in small boats.

With AFP

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