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UK: Devon votes to investigate renting a cruise ship to house refugees

January 11, 2023 at 1:33 pm

Migrants are brought ashore by a RNLI lifeboat in Dover, UK on May 23, 2022 [Stuart Brock/Anadolu Agency]

A district council in Devon has voted to investigate renting a cruise ship to house refugees and homeless people.

The council says that demand for public housing has been driven up by refugees and homeless people. “We live in radical times which call for radical measures,” said Councillor David Brenton.

At a Torridge District Council meeting, councillors voted overwhelmingly in support of the motion.

Cllr Brenton, who put forward the motion, said that cruise ships are being scrapped due to a decrease in demand following the coronavirus pandemic and that leasing or renting the empty vessels would provide emergency accommodation.

Some raised concerns over the limited space and the spread of illnesses and diseases and raised potential drug or alcohol issues.

The Scottish government has housed Ukrainian refugees on cruise ships since the start of the Russian invasion.

READ: UK government resettled no Afghan refugees under scheme, one year after launch

Cllr Breton said that 1,275 refugees have been housed on a ship in Edinburgh and proposed that the same be done in Middle Dock, a dockyard in North Devon.

In July, whilst taking part in the Tory leadership race, Rishi Sunak proposed putting refugees on cruise ships to be moored at various points across the country.

Last year, over 40,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats, many of them from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, to seek refuge in England.

Each year the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats has almost doubled. The issue of where they will live has become a key issue, with successive Conservative ministers even proposing they be sent to Rwanda for processing.

In October last year Home Secretary Suella Braverman said it was her “dream” and “obsession” to be on the front page of the Telegraph with a plane load of refugees who had arrived in the UK taking off to Rwanda.

Another point of controversy has been the housing of asylum seekers in hotels and former military barracks, including Napier Barracks in Kent.

The barracks has been criticised by rights groups as not being fit to house people particularly during the pandemic when men lived in dormitories separated by a thin curtain.

A report released late last year deemed a mother and baby unit in Glasgow to be cramped and unsafe.

Afghans evacuated from the country were only allowed out of their hotel in Swindon if they booked at the front desk to go for a walk.