The Government has confirmed it has signed a deal to house up to 500 asylum seekers on a barge in Portland Port in Dorset.
The contract will see the 93-metre-long Bibby Stockholm come under Home Office control.
The Home Office says the barge will accommodate about 500 single adult males whilst their asylum claims are processed.
Officials say it will provide basic and functional accommodation, and healthcare provision, catering facilities and 24/7 security will be in place on board, to minimise the disruption to local communities.
Suella Braverman has faced criticism from campaigners who said the proposed policy would be unworkablePA
Migrants are due to be moved onto the Bibby Stockholm in the coming months. The Home Office says it’s in discussions with other ports and further vessels will be “announced in due course”.
Bibby Stockholm will be operational for at least 18 months and stay berthed in the port during that time, according to officials.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said:
“The Home Secretary and I have been clear that the use of expensive hotels to house those making unnecessary and dangerous journeys must stop. We will not elevate the interests of illegal migrants over the British people we are elected to serve.
Portland marina and the Portland Harbour area in Dorset.
“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.
“All accommodation will meet our legal obligations and we will work closely with the local community to address their concerns, including through financial support.”
The barge’s Parent-company Bibby Marine has told GB News that it is still docked in Genoa in Italy.
In a statement to GB News, the company added:
“The Bibby Stockholm offers ensuite rooms, all with windows, which can be configured to suit client’s needs. Each room has a bed, desk, storage and ensuite facilities. Onboard there is a laundry, canteen, and social spaces.
The Bibby Stockholm has been refurbished and has comfortably housed workers from various industries including construction, marine and the armed forces over the years.
The Bibby Stockholm has been refurbished and has comfortably housed workers from various industries including construction, marine and the armed forces over the years.”
Chief Executive of Portland Port, Bill Reeves said:
“We are keen to play our part in the national effort to house some of the thousands of people needing accommodation.
“We encourage everyone in the community to approach this with an open mind and help us show other areas just how successful this type of initiative can be, both for the migrants and the local community.
“There will be close co-operation with local agencies, including the health and emergency services during the preparations for the vessel’s arrival and its operation. We will also work closely with local community and voluntary groups.
Tory-run Dorset Council is opposed to the use of Portland Harbour as the site for the plans, with local MP Richard Drax saying he is working to get the plan “consigned to the dustbin”.
The announcement that the barge will be used is part of a of a pledge by Rishi Sunak’s government to end the controversial practice of housing asylum seekers in hotel accommodation, which is currently costing the tax payer up to £7 million a day.
However, it’s believed the Bibby Stockholm will cost £20,000 a day to run.
As well as the use of the barge, the Home Office has also announced plans house around 3,000 migrants in two disused RAF bases. The Ministry of Defence run sites at Wethersfield in Essex and Scampton in Lincolnshire have been prepared for the imminent arrival of asylum seekers.
The Prime Minister announced in December that the Government planned to stop using hotels to house migrants.
The announcement that the barge will be used is part of a of a pledge by Rishi Sunak’s government to end the controversial practice of housing asylum seekers in hotel accommodation.
Around 400 hotels right across the country have been requisitioned by the Home Office to hold more than 51,000 asylum seekers.
Although a move away from using hotels will be welcomed by many, the plans face fierce opposition in communities near the proposed locations for the large-scale asylum seeker accommodation centres.
Residents in the village of Wethersfield in Essex told GB News they were determined to fight the plans to locate at least 1,500 asylum seekers to the nearby base.
The local district council has confirmed it is seeking a judicial review in the High Court, to try to have the plans stopped.
The Government hopes the announcement that thousands of asylum seekers will be relocated to large scale accommodation centres will act as a deterrent to those planning to enter the UK by irregular routes, like the use of small boats across the English Channel