The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced yesterday that the government had purchased two new barges to house up to 1,000 migrants seeking refuge in the UK.
Speaking at a press conference in Dover, the Prime Minister said he would wait to announce where the new barges would be located as there would be “extensive engagement” with local communities.
He said another ship planned for 500 asylum seekers, which the government acquired in May, would arrive in Portland, off the coast of Dorset, within the next two weeks.
The first cohort of around 500 migrants is due to board the three-storey “Bibby Stockholm” boat later this month, after refurbishments are carried out in Falmouth, Cornwall.
However, critics including the Refugee Council said barges are “entirely unsuitable for the needs” of those seeking refuge and that the government’s proposals were, instead, a “direct consequence of the chronic delays and huge backlog in the asylum system.”
According to iNews, the Mayor of Portland, Carralyn Parkes, said the plans to keep up to 500 migrants on the “Bibby Stockholm” were “awful”, and raised fears about how the local infrastructure would handle a surge in new arrivals.
“I think it’s horrible to keep this artificial community. Ordinary people live in communities where people thrive. People’s needs are best met in communities, not housed all together in camps or barges,” she said. “It’s going back to the Second World War. It’s awful.”
She further argued that Portland does not have the healthcare infrastructure to deal with the “complex needs” of 500 extra new residents.
“We don’t have a hospital, we just have a minor injuries unit. We have one GP practice to cover up to 14,000 people. We have one dentist, again for up to 14,000 people,” she added.
The PM said that forcing migrants to share hotel rooms would save £250 million a year.
According to The Independent, an analysis of provisional Home Office data suggests that, as of 3 June, 7,610 people had been detected crossing the Channel in 2023, compared with 9,954 by the same date in 2022 – a decrease of just over 20 per cent.
“If you’re coming here illegally, claiming sanctuary from death, torture or persecution, then you should be willing to share a taxpayer-funded hotel room in central London,” said Sunak.
He added that the small boat crossing plan “is starting to work” but there is still a “long way to go”.