Giant barge that will house 500 asylum seekers finally on way to Dorset a month late after refit

17 July 2023, 14:44

The Bibby Stockholm barge left for Portland Port, Dorset on Monday
The Bibby Stockholm barge left for Portland Port, Dorset on Monday. Picture: Getty/PA
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A giant barge that will house up to 500 asylum seekers has finally left Cornwall a month behind schedule.

The Bibby Stockholm left Falmouth for Portland, Dorset, on Monday morning, as plans continue to repurpose to the barge to house migrants.

Its move to Dorset has caused backlash among worried locals and human rights activists, including comedian Dom Joly, who dressed as Mickey Mouse and held a placard saying "stop child detention outside the Home Office in central London.

It comes as the government prepares for a fresh showdown with the House of Lords over its controversial Illegal Migration Bill.

Members of the Lords want further concessions in the Bill on limits to the detention of children, modern slavery protections and the provision of safe, legal routes for refugees to the UK.

Number 10 has continued to defend its position of housing migrants on the barge, saying it is cheaper than placing them in hotels across the country.

"I think it's right for the public as a whole that we move away from a situation where £6million a day of taxpayers' money is going towards housing these individuals in hotels," Rishi Sunak's spokesperson said.

"That's not a good use of money and obviously that puts unplanned pressure on local areas as well."

The first asylum seekers are expected to board the Bibby Stockholm later this month.

Bibby Stockholm barge
Bibby Stockholm barge. Picture: Getty

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury successfully led an amendment against Rishi Sunak's new migration bill as the government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords.

Justin Welby spearheaded one amendment to the bill, which was backed by 186 votes to 131.

The amendment would force the government to formulate a 10-year plan for working with international partners to tackle the refugee crisis.

On Wednesday evening, House of Lords peers demanded a number of amendments be made to the controversial migration bill, which Mr Sunak has put at the heart of his 'Stop the Boats' policy.

The Bill, if passed, will aim to ensure those who enter the UK illegally are detained and deported back to their country of origin, or Rwanda.

Read More: Archbishop of Canterbury leads attack against Sunak's migrant bill as govt suffers more defeats in House of Lords

Read More: University is 'great but not the only way to succeed', PM tells LBC as he outlines crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees

The government has faced legal difficulty in proceeding with its plan to send migrants to Rwanda, a battle which is set to end up in the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, with a backlog of asylum cases in the UK, the Government has sought to cut the cost of housing migrants in hotels by using alternative accommodation, including the Bibby Stockholm and former military bases.

Rishi Sunak made 'Stop the Boats' one of his five pledges
Rishi Sunak made 'Stop the Boats' one of his five pledges. Picture: Getty

Dorset Council has been given a £2 million funding package to meet the cost of providing services for the Bibby Stockholm residents.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that Bibby Stockholm is now on its way to Portland Port.

"Using vessels as alternative accommodation, like our European neighbours are already doing, will be better value for British taxpayers and more manageable for communities than costly hotels.

"We continue to work extremely closely with local councils and key partners to prepare for arrival of asylum seekers later this month and minimise disruption for local residents including through substantial financial support."

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