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First batch of asylum seekers in UK expected to move to Portland barge this week

July 25, 2023 at 1:43 pm

A general view of the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge in Portland Port, on July 25, 2023 in Portland, England [Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images]

The first batch of 50 asylum seekers in the UK are expected to arrive on the Isle of Portland this week where they will be placed on a floating ship – their home while they wait for their asylum claims to be processed, Anadolu Agency reports.

Keeping asylum seekers on a floating barge is another controversial migrant policy of the UK government, which aims to look after up to 500 single men for at least the next 18 months in the south-west of the country.

Portland will go down in history as the first city in the UK to host asylum seekers on the “Bibby Stockholm” barge.

Why such a policy?

The number of pending UK asylum seeker cases has reached a record high, with the latest data from the Home Office indicating that over 166,000 people are still waiting for a decision on their applications by the end of last year.

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In addition, the numerous small boats crossing the English Channel with migrants seeking asylum are imposing significant financial burdens on the UK, on top of the existing cost-of-living crisis, with estimated daily costs coming in at £5-7 million ($6-9 million).

According to the government, facilities such as the “Bibby Stockholm” are “considerably more cost-effective than hotels,” with reported daily expenses for food, health care and security on this vessel amounting to £20,000 (about $25,000).

People sent to this facility will be solely single adult men aged 18 to 65 who have entered the UK illegally.

Residents on the barge are not kept in detention, allowing them the freedom to come and go as they please. However, as part of port security, they are required to sign a register each time they enter or exit.

Before their arrival, residents undergo robust security checks, involving searches of both UK and international databases.

To facilitate access to local services, the Home Office has arranged for bus services to transport barge residents to nearby Weymouth.

Each room will be shared by two male migrants, aged 18 to 65. There will be no curfew, giving residents the freedom to come and go as they please. However, a register will be kept at reception, and there will be 24-hour security on the port premises.

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