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Labour would have ‘no choice’ but to house migrants on barges and ex-military bases if voted into government
6 August 2023, 16:27 | Updated: 6 August 2023, 18:02
Labour has said it would have “no choice” but to continue using barges and ex-military bases to house asylum seekers if voted in during the next election.
Shadow immigration minister, Stephen Kinnock, admitted the Labour Party would have to temporarily home migrants on barges - including the Bibby Stockholm, should they form the next government.
The minister, however, said the prospect made him “deeply unhappy”.
“The reality is, on day one we will have to deal with the we have and the shambolic mess they have left us. We’ll be left with no choice but to deal with the mess we inherit," he said.
While the shadow minister refused to give a timeline of when the party would stop using the divisive accommodation, if voted in, he said he was confident that a Labour government could resolve the backlog of 172,000 processing claims within six months of being in power.
Labour would implement 'carefully manage pathways' for refugees to enter the UK says Shadow Immigration Minister
It comes after reports the UK’s first migrant barge the Bibby Stockholm is expected to see asylum seekers arrive “in the coming days”.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said about 50 men will board the barge, based in Portland, Dorset.
More than 500 migrants are expected to be housed on the Bibby Stockholm, more than double its 222-person capacity. There will also be 40 additional staff members on board.
Earlier this week the controversial migrant barge was set to welcome its first asylum seekers, but the plans were delayed after the local fire services said they had not yet given their stamp of approval.
Safety concerns for the barge means it has to undergo a series of safety checks before allowing the first group of migrants on board.
It comes as Andrew Castle challenged the Shadow Immigration Minister on Labour's policy should they form a government following the next general election.
"We would stop being a headline chasing, gimmick type government, which is what this government are about,” said Stephen Kinnock.
Highlighting the party would “redirect" funding slated for Rwanda to "a cross-boarder police unit”, the MP highlighted a proposed plan where immigration and the EU was concerned.
“It’s in the interests of the European Union to stop people massing on the coasts of Calais and massing in the channel," he continued.
"So there is a win-win here - but we also realistically know that we’ve got to have a good offer. In terms of us doing our fair share of capped and managed legal routes."
Addressing the safety issues linked to the Bibby Stockholm barge, the current Immigration Minister, Mr Jenrick, told Sky News: “I can absolutely assure you that this is a safe facility.”
Downing Street has defended the controversial use of barges and ex-military bases to house migrants, insisting it is a cheaper alternative to accommodating them in hotels - which it estimates to cost £6m a day.
Previously shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, suggested she would not be able to instantly shut down such sites if Labour formed the next government but also did not offer an explicit alternative.