Migrants say they'd 'rather go on to the streets and be homeless' than live on new barge for asylum seekers

6 April 2023, 18:12

Migrants have said they don't want to be housed on a barge
Migrants have said they don't want to be housed on a barge. Picture: Alamy/Bibby Marine

By Will Taylor

Migrants who face being moved onto barges as part of the Government's new plan to accommodate them say they would rather go onto the streets.

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One vessel is already being brought in from Italy with plans to moor it at Portland, Dorset, which can house about 500 asylum seekers.

But the controversial plans have left migrants saying they would rather end up without a roof over their head and call for protests against the idea.

Imad, a Sudanese refugee, told Sky News: "I don't want to go ... I [would] go homeless."

Read more: Rishi Sunak hails mega-barge being towed from Italy to Dorset to house 500 migrants as 'value for money'

The broadcaster was told how migrants feared the barge would be a holding facility for people sent to Rwanda, if that idea ever gets going.

Another refugee called Sadam said he wanted people to organise a protest outside the hotel he has been staying in.

More migrants crossed the Channel on Wednesday
More migrants crossed the Channel on Wednesday. Picture: Alamy

The Government wants to move migrants from hotels amid fear of spiralling costs, but has pitched itself up for a fight with local authorities in Dorset – including politicians from its own party.

Mayor of Portland Peter Roper said it would "put a load" on the isle and south Dorset.

But the Government hopes stays there will hopefully be short, with migrants being moved into housing soon.

A second barge is reportedly being targeted by ministers.

Read more: 'It's like a floating hotel': Ex-prisoner had no problems being on ship set to house migrants

There are also plans to move migrants to military bases including RAF Scampton, the former home of the Dambusters, and Catterick Garrison – a symbolically important move given that it is in Rishi Sunak’s constituency in North Yorkshire. Those ideas are opposed by local authorities and residents.

The plans form part of the Government’s bid to show it is tackling small boat crossings, making the issue front and centre ahead of the general election in the next couple of years.

The Government is bringing in barges to accommodate migrants
The Government is bringing in barges to accommodate migrants. Picture: Bibby Marine

But despite well-publicised moves like the Rwanda deportation scheme – currently held up by a legal battle – 437 people made it across the Channel on Wednesday, the most this year.

It means 4,431 have made the trip so far this year. Just over 45,000 people crossed in 2022.

The Government has also announced it will make it harder for illegal migrants to access bank accounts, stopping them from working.

Details of disqualified people will be sent to banks and building societies, which can then check their current account holders against the list.

But Amnesty International accused the Government of "demonising" migrants over the plans.

"It is part of an exercise in socially excluding and isolating a mass of people regardless of their individual circumstances - including where those culpable for why people are in these circumstances are human traffickers, other abusers and even the Home Office," the group said.