Labour councils wreck government attempts to house migrants on barges

Labour councils wreck government attempts to house migrants on barges

July 19, 2023

Labour councils scupper government attempts to house asylum seekers on barges as they block plans to dock them at ports around Britain – leaving taxpayers saddled with £6m-a-DAY hotel bill

  • Two cruise ships set to house 1,000 asylum seekers ‘returned to their owners’
  • 300ft-long Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge arrives at Portland Port
  • But locals are fearful over impact new arrivals will have on town’s community 

Plans to use two giant cruise ships to tackle the Channel boats crisis were in tatters last night after Labour councils were accused of blocking efforts to find a port where they could be docked.

Last month Rishi Sunak announced the Government had secured vessels capable of housing up to 1,000 asylum seekers, saying his Government’s tough-talking policies were ‘starting to work’.

However, in a blow to his pledge to ‘stop the boats’, and cut the £6million daily hotel bill to house migrants, it emerged yesterday that the deals had been scrapped after efforts to find a suitable port ended in failure.

Negotiations to berth the former cruise ships in Liverpool and Edinburgh fell through following fierce local opposition, as well as concerns about thee effect on regeneration projects.

However, the Home Office insisted it had not given up finding a suitable port – while Downing Street pointed the finger of blame at Labour councils, saying they had failed to offer constructive support for the plans.

It was previously reported how plans to house 500 male asylum seekers in one of the cruise ships in Liverpool were scrapped following objections by the port operator, Peel Ports

Meanwhile protesters greeted the arrival of the three-storey Bibby Stockholm barge intended to house 500 migrants in Portland, Dorset. Some local protesters against hosting the ship clashed with those claiming that the barge policy was racist.

The failure to find somewhere to dock the cruise ships was ‘a great pity’, Tory MP Adam Holloway, who sits on the home affairs committee, told the Daily Mail. He added: ‘There’s nothing wrong with putting people on ships and the Government should continue to look for places to dock them.

‘The reality is we are never going to end this problem if the message doesn’t get out that if you arrive here illegally you will not stay.

‘At the moment the taxpayer is spending an absolute fortune to house people.’ Labour claimed it was a debacle which demonstrated that the ‘incompetence of this Conservative Government knows no limits’. Mr Sunak first proposed putting Channel migrants on disused cruise ships during last summer’s Tory leadership contest, saying it would help end the ‘hotel farce’.

The ports of Liverpool and Edinburgh were both ruled out after local Labour opposition.

Plans to berth one of the ships close to Wirral Waters in Birkenhead – home to a forthcoming £4.5billion waterfront development – sparked furious local reaction. At the same time, Labour-run Wirral council said it had ‘significant concerns’ about the ‘challenges’ that the migrant ship would represent.

In addition, campaigners pointed to a violent anti-migrant demonstration outside a hotel in nearby Knowsley in February after it was used to house asylum seekers. Peel Ports Group, which operates The Port of Liverpool, last month announced that it ‘could not see any conceivable scenario where the local agencies are going to be able to provide the necessary support’.

Plans to berth another of the boats, the MS Victoria, in Leith, Edinburgh, had also attracted opposition from the local council, Scottish Government and the dock’s owner, Forth Ports

Yesterday, it was reported residents living close to the four-star Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli, South Wales have set up bollards and metal railings preventing vehicles from entering the only road that leads to its front entrance, insisting that they do not want it turning into a refugee centre.

A homeowner who owns the land across which the road runs withdrew a previous access agreement with the hotel in fury after it sacked 95 staff so that it could house the migrants under a deal struck with the Home Office to tackle the crisis in the Channel.

The roadblock has stopped vehicles carrying workers and coaches with migrants from getting to the hotel. The migrants were supposed to have moved into the hotel by July 3.

The protesters were supported by Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, who visited them in South Wales to hear their concerns and address them. 

He told MailOnline: ‘This is a much-loved, community hotel which also provided employment for almost 100 people. The landowner has withdrawn consent for use of the private road, and this means that the Government’s plans to use this hotel is scuppered.’

The roadblock at Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli

The return of the cruise ships marks the latest blow to the Prime Minister’s bid to find alternative accommodation for asylum seekers.


However, in a letter from the harbour authority seen by the Daily Mail, executives blamed Wirral council’s failure to be ‘supportive’. It added there was a substantial risk of the council – where Labour is the biggest party – ‘obstructing’ accommodation of the vessel.

Yesterday Government sources confirmed that two ships earmarked for asylum seekers had been sold on or returned to their owners after negotiations with ports ‘fell through’.

A Downing Street source said ministers remained determined to find berths for the ferries, adding: ‘It is disappointing but not surprising that Labour councils are trying to block them.’

The Home Office announced that around 50 asylum seekers will board the Bibby Stockholm from next week. 

‘The Bibby Stockholm has now arrived at Portland Port where it will be moved around the port to position it for its final berth,’ a spokesman said.

‘From next week about 50 asylum seekers will be moved on to the vessel as part of a carefully structured plan to increase the number of individuals on board over the next few months.

‘The Government is providing substantial funding to local services including the police and NHS to support them and minimise the impact on the community, and there will be 24/7 security on site,’ a spokesman said.

‘The site is designed to be self-sufficient in order to minimise the impact on the local community, with catering, recreational areas and basic health care provision on board.’

The move to bring the Bibby Stockholm to Portland triggered protests from locals who are fearful over the impact the new arrivals will have on the town’s community, with residents holding signs saying ‘No To The Barge’, ‘Portland Port Betrays Portland’ and ‘Portland Betrayed’.

Chris Loder, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, has written to the Home Office in an effort to stop the plans over concerns for the safety of the barge.

He said the Maritime and Coastguard Agency had failed to confirm whether experts have carried out a risk and safety assessment and ensured it is fit for purpose.

Another local politician has slammed the plans as ‘cruel and unusual’ amid concerns that community does not have the infrastructure to house more people in the area.

They fear that already overstretched services such as GP surgeries will not be able to cope with the influx of 506 men, who will be able to come and go as they wish.

They will be given a free mobile phone if they do not already have one and will have access to healthcare on the barge. A free hourly bus service will also be laid on to transport them out of the port to Portland and to the nearby resort of Weymouth. 

But locals are worried about an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour, risk to their personal safety and the impact on tourism.

The Bibby Stockholm immigration barge arrives at Portland Port in Dorset this morning

Rival protesters argue in Portland in Dorset after the Bibby Stockholm barge arrived 

Police officers speaking to protesters Portland Port near Weymouth in Dorset this morning

The Bibby Stockholm barge is manoeuvred by the Mercia (centre right) and Rupert Best (bottom) into the dock at Portland in Dorset , where it is due to house migrants 

The arrival of the Bibby Stockholm comes as the Government’s migration plans were poised to become law after ministers saw off fresh challenges by peers.

What has happened with the Government’s plan to curb crossings? 

Sweeping asylum reforms are poised to become law as the Bibby Stockholm barge arrives at Portland Port where it is set to house hundreds of migrants.

The news marks a step forward in efforts by the Government to cut the number of Channel crossings and get to grips with the backlog of asylum cases awaiting a decision. Here is a look at developments so far this week:

– What happened in Parliament?

The Illegal Migration Bill is poised to become law after ministers saw off fresh challenges by peers who tried to make further changes to the proposed legislation.

Another series of votes by MPs last night marked the end of the parliamentary tussle between the Commons and the Lords, known as ping-pong, over the detail of the flagship reforms which has paved the way for the Bill to receive royal assent.

– Why is this significant?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set out the Bill as a key element of one of the main priorities of his tenure, his pledge to ‘stop the boats’.

This will be seen by the Government as a significant breakthrough in the wake of ferocious opposition towards the plans from campaigners and in the Lords.

– How will the law change?

The much-criticised proposed legislation will, for the first time, prevent migrants from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive by unauthorised means, such as by crossing the Channel in a dinghy.

The Government hopes measures contained in the Bill will make sure migrants who do arrive without permission are detained and then promptly deported from the UK, either to their home country or to another country such as Rwanda, although this particular deal is currently the subject of a legal challenge.

– What do critics say about the plans?

Campaigners have lamented the proposals, warning that they are cruel, inhumane, unworkable and will not stop people trying to come to the UK to seek asylum. Some have argued it strips away long-standing promises the country has made to provide sanctuary and aid to refugees.

– Why does the Government disagree?

Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman insist the Bill is paramount to deterring Channel crossings and controlling the number of people arriving and staying in the UK, as well as overhauling elements of the asylum system.

– What else is happening?

A huge barge which will house 500 asylum seekers has arrived at its destination after weeks of delay.

The Bibby Stockholm was pulled by a tug boat into Portland Port in Dorset, a month behind schedule, having left Falmouth in Cornwall yesterday after maintenance work was carried out.

Despite opposition from residents and the area’s Tory MP, Downing Street defended the use of barges to house migrants, insisting it is a cheaper alternative to housing them in hotels.

– Why is this needed?

The Home Office stressed the need for the barge to help accommodate some of the 51,000 ‘destitute’ migrants currently living in hotels at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £6million a day.

The department said the Portland site was ‘suitable’ because it was ‘as self-sufficient as possible’ in a bid to ‘minimise the impact on local communities and services’.

– How will this work?

The barge will house single adult men and the barge will initially be in place for 18 months, although this will be kept under review. It is expected asylum seekers will stay on board between three and six months but this could rise to nine months.

The first group of asylum seekers are expected to board the barge later this month, with the number increasing in stages.

They will not be detained on the boat and a bus is being provided when they need transport for appointments.

On board, there is air conditioning, wifi, heating, communal spaces and a canteen in addition to cabins.

Funding has been set aside for basic NHS healthcare on board, with Dorset Council being given £3,500 per occupied bed space to reduce the pressure on local services.

– What about plans for migrant accommodation in Sussex and Lincolnshire?

The Home Office is still working on plans to house asylum seekers in a former prison on the outskirts of Bexhill in Sussex.

No final decision has been made on the Northeye site but, if it is used, the Government hopes it could house around 1,200 people at its peak.

But the Home Secretary has agreed plans to house up to 2,000 single, adult male asylum seekers at former airbase RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, with initially 200 people arriving at the site.

The Home Office said it is still working on developing the site and is yet to confirm when it will open.

And Mr Loder, a former member of the transport select committee, said: ‘The whole situation of risk and safety has been a concern of mine for some time.

‘When I asked the MCA yesterday if they had confirmed they had assessed this vessel fit to house double the number of people it was designed for, they were not able to confirm that.

‘So I wrote to the Home Secretary and the transport minister. I want to know what exactly has or hasn’t been done and if work hasn’t been done to assess that safety risk I have asked them to stop the operation of the Bibby Stockholm in Portland Port.

‘I don’t want the barge to come to Portland anyway. This is a last ditch attempt from me to stop it. It is the wrong thing to do. The Dorset coast is the wrong place to do such a thing.

‘The risk is not just the safety of the barge but it is also the risk to the community and I just have not been given the assurances that this has been done.’

He added: ‘The majority of those coming into the county are doing so illegally. They are coming from a safe country which is France having travelled through a number of safe countries to get to France and then making this horrendous journey across the Channel.

‘I haven’t figured out why, once you get to a safe country, you would want to take a perilous journey across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.’

MailOnline has contacted the MCA for a statement on Mr Loder’s claims.  

Portland Town Mayor Carralyn Parkes told BBC Radio 4: ‘Our position as a town council on the barge remains unchanged since the Home Office and Portland Port decided to inflict this on us.

‘It is cruel and unusual to detain asylum seekers on a barge and Portland does not have the infrastructure in terms of hospitals and facilities to house an extra 500 people.’

Two separate groups gathered at the edge of the port this morning, with ‘Stand Up to Racism’ and ‘No To The Barge’ both voicing concerns about the barge being moored in Portland. They were watched over by a small number of police officers.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax, members from Dorset Council and NHS Dorset have also objected to the decision, but Downing Street insists using barges is cheaper than using hotels.

One campaigner from No To The Barge told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘We are no to the barge. This is about inhumanity for the people of Portland and the asylum seekers.

‘In many ways this is profit before people. A private deal between the Home Office and Portland Port. This deal stinks quite frankly and we are against it.’

Another protester called Sami who lives in Portland told the BBC this morning: ‘I am here for my family because we have not got enough staff for the NHS, dentists, doctors.

‘Why are 500 men (being housed) when there should have been families and children? I have my children to think about.

‘Why Portland when it’s so small? Why didn’t a big city like London take them? France, Ireland, no one wants them.’

The barge, which expected to be moored for at least 18 months, had been held in Falmouth for a refit to upgrade its accommodation after being delayed by a month due to maritime inspections. 

Poor weather conditions also added to the delays.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It’s undergoing final inspections upon arrival.

‘That’s the last part of the process ahead of the first group of asylum seekers moving into the vessel later this month.’

But local resident Kelvin Thomson said that he feared for the safety of women living in the area with the arrival of ‘bored single men’.

He said: ‘It’s a fear for the ladies of the island, the young girls and boys, with the influx of 500 very bored men with nothing to do.

‘They are young men which frightens me a lot. I fear for my daughter, I have been on Amazon buying sprays and alarms.

‘My concern is nothing to do with racism, it’s just what are 500 bored men going to do with next to no money?’

Lisa Black said: ‘My feelings on the barge is Portland Port have done a shameful act in doing a deal with the Government with no consultation, no consent, no consideration at all for the people of Portland.

‘We are struggling to get doctor’s appointments, we can’t get a dentist appointment and we are bursting at the seems and Portland Port have no consideration to that all, they are just going to bring a barge in with 500 people on it and they are going to have access to our doctors and our dentists and we can’t.’

Lorraine Beckett, 54, from the No To The Barge campaign group, said: ‘It’s not the right place to be homing all of these people and it’s not right for Portland because we do not have the infrastructure on the island for the extra people coming in so that’s why I feel strongly by it.

‘I think it should be located perhaps in cities and not on such a small island where there are just 13,000 people.’

Chantelle Warren, from nearby Weymouth, said: ‘I don’t think Portland is the right place for 500 men to come, they are going to have massive cultural differences to the people that are here, it could potentially not be good at all.

‘If you need a dentist you can’t find one, I think it’s going to be too much of a stretch on local resources, when places like London and Liverpool have said no because they don’t have the infrastructure why are they putting it here?’

Rocco Holly-Nambi, director of local arts group B-Side which runs an arts festival which has a theme of migration this year, said she welcomed refugees but believed the barge was not the correct way of housing them.

The Bibby Stockholm migrant barge is manoeuvred after arriving at Portland Harbour

A crowd of people hold signs in Portland including ones saying ‘No To The Barge’

The Bibby Stockholm migrant barge is manoeuvred after arriving at Portland Harbour 

A protester in Portland after the Bibby Stockholm arrived after travelling from Falmouth

She said: ‘We are in support of welcoming refugees on Portland but we think the barge itself is a problematic vessel to house people who have been through trauma.

Barges will be ‘catastrophic’ for mental health of asylum seekers, therapist says 

Using barges such as the Bibby Stockholm could be ‘catastrophic’ for the mental health of those seeking asylum, a therapist has warned.

Ann Salter, who works for the charity Freedom From Torture, said making people live on water after experiencing potentially traumatic events while making dangerous journeys on small boats could impact their wellbeing.

She has previously called the plans to house asylum seekers on barges a ‘mental and physical health catastrophe waiting to happen’.

Her warning comes as the Bibby Stockholm barge arrives in Portland, Dorset, where it will house 500 asylum seekers.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Ms Salter said: ‘I know people’s experiences from the hotels have been catastrophic for people’s mental health, the barges are going to be much worse.’

The clinical services manager for the north west said that those who have fled to the UK will ‘most certainly’ have experienced trauma from their home country or journey, and that conditions such as living in a ‘prison camp’ on the sea could re-trigger this.

Ms Salter said: ‘What we know from experience from our clients, [they have] experienced seeing other people drowning, experienced family members drowning, tried to save lives of others.

‘That awful thing trying to hold onto somebody and losing that person, not being able to hold on.

‘The trauma of being on water and having to cross water, to get on to dry land, and to be on a barge on water is not good.’

Overall, Ms Salter said the barge policy was ‘disastrous’, adding: ‘It’s really not acceptable, full stop.’

The Manchester-based therapist explained the way clients often manage their symptoms such as flashbacks is to go for a walk, be in the open air and greenery, which she fears they will have ‘limited access’ to by living on a barge.

Ms Salter also flagged concerns over the barges being targeted.

She said: ‘We know hotels have been targeted by far-right groups, when that happens it’s really frightening and the fear of that as well.

‘I do worry about barges being targeted [because] they are so visible.’

The Government has said it has to use alternative accommodation due to numbers of people seeking refuge in the UK but Ms Salter said the problem stems from the backlog in processing asylum cases.

She said: ‘We have never seen such delays, the delay in people’s asylum claim being assessed has a huge impact on people’s mental health.’

Regarding physical health, Ms Salter highlighted issues seen in hotels where people are unable to cook their own food, which can cause ‘real problems’ for people who need to follow particular diets for health reasons.

‘Our position based on the kind of research we have done is that they should process people’s claims quicker and in the meantime to house people on land in a dignified and hospitable way.’

The deal to house the barge in Dorset was secretly struck between the Home Office and Portland Port, which is a private enterprise, without any public consultation.

It is believed the port will receive £2.5million from the arrangement while the Home Office is funding Dorset Council £2million for laying on extra services, security and activities for them.

A visiting cruise ship recently decided against stopping at Portland over concerns for the safety of its passengers due to a protest taking place. The move is said to have cost the local economy £400,000 in lost income.

Others have said it is inhumane to house refugees who have fled persecution on a barge.

Dr Susan Phoenix, from the protest group No to the Barge, said locals resent public money that has been found to be spent on healthcare and transport for the asylum seekers when they are struggling.

She said: ‘We have been treated appallingly. We have been patronised by the government.

‘They need to look at what they are trying to do to this small poor area that is already lacking in resources. It’s hurtful, they can’t find the resources to help local people yet they have found all this money now.

‘It’s not a racist issue, it is 500 strange guys we don’t know and we don’t have the hospital services and doctors.

‘There is a six-week wait to get a doctor’s appointment at the moment. There’s resentment that suddenly they have found the money to fund services the local population have been asking for for ages.

‘There are 5,000 names on our petition, in an area of just 13,000 and a lot of people don’t have Facebook or the internet and don’t know it’s going on.

‘We are seeing disaster coming to our area because of the arrogance of the government.’

Hundreds of Weymouth and Portland residents, Mr Drax, Dorset Council and NHS Dorset objected to the barge being moored but to no avail.

About 50 protesters waving placards gathered outside Portland Port from as early as 4am yesterday.

The huge grey floating block was escorted in by security boats and arrived at its mooring at 8.15am as protesters jeered from behind the port’s security gates.

Portland resident Tim Munro said: ‘We are a 14,000 population community but the difference will be we will end up with 500 male people of one age group, probably with cultural and religious differences that maybe we can’t cater for.

‘It is the uncertainty about what is going to happen with 500 males on a daily basis. How are we going to cope? Until we know we can’t be anything but fearful.

‘Goodness knows what’s going to happen. We have visions of 500 people walking up Fortuneswell trying to get to the Co-op.’

Other protesters compared the barge to a prison and said it was inhumane to house refugees there.

Local councillor Paul Kimber said: ‘Our objections are that having the barge here it is going to be like a prison for them. Given the fact a lot of these refugees have come over the Mediterranean and we are giving them a life on the water.

‘We are not against refugees, we welcome them here.

Reverend Nick Clark, rural dean of Weymouth and Portland, said: ‘I am here to join with others here on the protest about the barge and to make a stand to welcome the refugees to this community.

The Bibby Stockholm, pictured arriving at Portland Port in Dorset this morning

The huge accommodation barge being towed into Portland in Dorset this morning 

Stand Up to Racism also joined local protesters at Portland Port this morning  

The Bibby Stockholm under tow as it approaches Portland Port near Weymouth in Dorset

‘We can do so much better in terms of making refugees more welcome than just putting them on a barge, it just looks like an incarceration.

READ MORE Dozens of migrants desperately clamber onto dinghy trying to reach Britain before French police intercept them

‘They are in need. The church in Weymouth and Portland are ready and poised to step up and welcome.’

Members of the campaign group Stand Up to Racism were protesting at Portland Port yesterday. They branded the barge a ‘government gimmick’.

A spokesman said the group will welcome the refugees into the community and volunteers have already offered to put on English lessons, cricket and soccer clubs and welcome hubs with tea and coffee for them.

Philip Marfleet, 75, said: ‘We are adamantly opposed to the prison barge but at the same time supportive of refugees. We see the refugees as vulnerable people fleeing from war, invasion and crisis who deserve to have their applications heard.

‘We welcome them in our community.

‘What the government should be doing is meeting their obligations under international law. The government should invest the money it’s putting into the barges and detention camps on making the asylum process more efficient.

‘The barge is a gimmick, it’s a calculated attempt to deflect attention away from them and blame it on refugees.’

Angela Sibley, 67, also from Stand Up to Racism, said: ‘The government shouldn’t be doing this. The barge is designed for half the number of people for a much shorter period of time so it won’t be great for traumatised people.

Barge protestors outside Portland Port near Weymouth in Dorset early this morning 

Dorset NHS, Dorset Council and the South Dorset MP are among those objecting in Portland 

The barge is seen being towed along the Dorset coast in the early hours of this morning 

Protesters from No To The Barge and Stand Up to Racism gather at Portland Port this morning 

The barge arrives at Portland Harbour in Dorset this morning 

A group of people are brought into Dover yesterday following a small boat incident in the channel 

‘With this barge they have deliberately chosen an area that they know is likely to have some hostility – an area that is very economically deprived with poor infrastructure.

Jess Phillips: I cry at how modern slavery victims are treated by Britain nowadays 

MP Jess Phillips

A Labour MP said the difference in standards to how victims of modern slavery are treated nowadays in the UK has made her cry, as she criticised housing people on ‘an overcrowded barge’ in Dorset.

Jess Phillips recalled the care and detail that was put into the foundation of the Midlands’ first dedicated women’s refuge for victims of trafficking ahead of the Modern Slavery Act becoming law in 2015.

She spoke at the Centre for Social Justice yesterday, the same day the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge arrived at Dorset’s Portland Port, where it will house asylum seekers.

Recalling the care taken in staying up at night to sew curtains for the Midlands’ refuge, she told those gathered: ‘My god, we took making a place of safety really seriously back then.

‘I think now of victims of modern slavery, boarding an overcrowded barge in Portland in Dorset and I cry at the difference in standards to what we once aspired to and now what awaits people who have been beaten, imprisoned, terrified and sexually exploited.

‘Who is sewing the curtains now?’

She described modern slavery as a crime ‘that is happening up and down our country, with British as well as foreign national men, women and children being forced into sex, labour and criminal activity, like growing cannabis or county lines drug dealing across the UK’.

She said it is ‘entrenched’ in local communities and is ‘bringing harm to thousands of people each year – hundreds of thousands more than the data allows us to see’.

She added: ‘The government-funded support system for victims of slavery is failing. With many victims unable to access the support that they need.

‘Those that the Government do support find themselves stuck for one and a half years on average waiting for a Government decision, whether they believe that person was trafficked or not.’

She branded the Illegal Migration Bill, which is now poised to become law, as ‘a trafficker’s dream, a tool for their control’.

‘Traffickers are today showing their slaves images of where they will end up in detention on a mega barge, or deported home right back to those who trafficked them in the first place.’

Downing Street has defended the use of barges to house migrants, insisting it was a cheaper alternative to housing them in hotels.

‘I don’t know why people are so fearful. I worry about the far right feeling it is creating and I worry for the refugees.’

Alex Bailey, 34, from the No To The Barge campaign group, said: ‘I am incredibly disappointed with our government. It has completely neglected the local people.

‘I think it is malicious, there was no consultation and no consideration from our elected representatives.

‘They have imposed this on a rural community of 13,562 people when so many places around the country have said no and these places have metropolitan infrastructures that support millions.

‘How can a small seaside community take a 3.6 per cent increase in population?

‘We will continue to protest when the cruise liners come in to show the disparity between the haves and have nots.

‘We think it’s gross that 506 men will be forced into rooms the size of a car parking space and what has been described as a quasi prison.

‘We think it is inhumane for both the asylum seekers and the people of Portland who were never consulted on this secretive deal between a private port and the Home Office.

‘The Home Office needs to pull their socks up when it comes to processing these asylum requests.

‘This is a pet project for Suella Beaverman and Rishi Sunak and they seem fixated on throwing money at a problem the Home Office has created.

‘It can’t be cheaper than hotels. When you look at all the services, overall it’s far more expensive, the management company alone is getting £1.6billion.’

Dorset Council has been given £2million in government funding to provide services and activities for the men, as well as extra CCTV and community safety officers and safeguarding training for barge staff.

Some of the money will go on providing a free hourly bus service to transport the men to Weymouth for activities such as football or the opportunity to work in community gardens and have English lessons.

They will also have various communal spaces on board the barge such as a quiet room, multi-faith room, media room with television and computer access and a games room for things like playing cards.

The Home Office has said the housing of the 500 migrants, who will all be male and aged between 18 and 65, is a temporary measure for up to 18 months to help them clear the backlog and cut down the £6million a day cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels.

Dorset Council has agreed a one-off funding payment of £377,000 to set up activities and volunteering opportunities as well as English lessons for those brought to the barge with an additional £3,500 per occupied bed.

Councillor Laura Beddow, portfolio holder for culture and communities, said: ‘It is essential that we can continue to meet residents’ needs while also providing new services for asylum seekers, without any additional pressure on local taxpayers.

‘We have been working very closely with our partners, including Dorset Police and NHS Dorset, as well as with the Home Office and Portland Port to ensure robust arrangements are in place.

‘This includes additional community safety officers in Portland and Weymouth, extending the operational hours of the CCTV in the area, providing safeguarding training for barge staff, and working in partnership with local voluntary and community organisations.

‘The decision to site a floating barge in Portland Port for 500 asylum seekers was made by the Home Office and facilitated through a commercial arrangement with Portland Port. Dorset Council was not consulted and had no decision-making powers over this arrangement.

‘From the outset, Dorset councillors have been clear about their concerns and opposition to the location of this scheme.

‘The council explored options to pursue legal action to challenge the Home Office’s decision.

‘Following specialist legal advice and the experience of other councils across the country, Dorset Council made the decision not to take legal action as it was unlikely to be successful and would incur high costs to local taxpayers.’

Portland Port states on its website that it received a confidential payment from the Government to provide berthing for the barge.

It says: ‘The port, which is a privately-owned business, also strongly believes that providing a berth for the Bibby Stockholm is the right thing to do.

‘The Home Office approached Portland Port some months ago, initially through a ship’s agent, to enquire about berthing a vessel to house asylum seekers. The port did not approach the Home Office.

‘The port has space, the capacity, infrastructure to support the Government’s requirements.

‘It will allow the port and Dorset to play its part in the national effort to house some of the thousands of asylum seekers needing accommodation, including some who have left war-torn countries and the threat of persecution overseas.’

The barge’s arrival comes after a night of drama in which the Tory frontbench saw off five further changes being sought by the unelected chamber to the Illegal Migration Bill, including modern slavery protections and child detention limits.

At least one other vote was ditched in the face of the Government victories.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has been a strident critic of the Bill, also dropped his demand for a statement on tackling the refugee problem and human trafficking to the UK, after a similar proposal was rejected by MPs.

It marked a shock ending to the parliamentary tussle over the flagship reforms that had threatened to go to the wire ahead of the summer recess.

The cessation of the stand-off between the unelected chamber and MPs during so-called ping-pong – where legislation is batted between the Lords and Commons until agreement is reached – paves the way for the Bill to receive royal assent.

The reforms are a key part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bid to deter people from making hazardous Channel crossings.

They will prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.

The Government also hopes the changes will ensure detained people are promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda, which is currently the subject of a legal challenge.

But the Bill encountered fierce opposition in the upper chamber, which was accused of trying to ‘drive a coach and horses’ through the contentious plans.

In turn, the Government faced claims of seeking to deliver a ‘punishment beating’ to peers for challenging the plans.

Ministers had urged the Lords to allow the Bill to become law after signalling no further concessions were planned and MPs again overturned a raft of revisions previously made by the upper chamber.

Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth said the number of small boat arrivals had ‘overwhelmed’ the UK’s asylum system and was costing taxpayers £6 million a day to provide accommodation.

He told peers: ‘With over 45,000 people making dangerous Channel crossings last year this is simply no longer sustainable.

‘If people know there is no way for them to stay in the UK, they won’t risk their lives and pay criminals thousands of pounds to arrive here illegally.

‘It is therefore only right that we stop the boats and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting vulnerable people, ultimately enabling the Government to have greater capacity to provide a safe haven for those at risk of war and persecution.’

He urged the Lords to ‘respect the will of the elected House and the British people by passing this Bill’.

But while he agreed on the need to stop the small boat crossings, Mr Welby said: ‘I fail to see how this (the Bill) does it and I have not heard anything to convince me.

‘But that is the view of the other place. I agree that in the end on most things, except the most essential, that this House must give way to the other place.’

He added: ‘The problem with the Bill is that it has not started at the right place. Where it needed to start with is… to have a level of national consensus and agreement on what the aim of our migration policy and immigration policy is in the long term.’

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, led national and international outrage at the Bill and said: ‘For decades, the UK has provided refuge to those in need, in line with its international obligations – a tradition of which it has been rightly proud.

‘This new legislation significantly erodes the legal framework that has protected so many, exposing refugees to grave risks in breach of international law.’

Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: ‘Carrying out removals under these circumstances is contrary to prohibitions of refoulement and collective expulsions, rights to due process, to family and private life, and the principle of best interests of children concerned.’

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: ‘This new law is a con which will only make the Tories’ asylum chaos worse. It fails to tackle the criminal smuggler gangs and makes it easier for traffickers.

‘And it cancels asylum decision making with no return agreements in place so it will just increase the asylum backlog with even more people in costly hotels.

‘They have lost all common sense and decency.’

Alex Fraser, British Red Cross’s UK director for refugee support, said: ‘This is a dark day that will cause a wave of fear and uncertainty for people seeking protection from violence and persecution.

‘Ultimately, this law makes it impossible for the vast majority of men, women and children to claim asylum in the UK. It will leave many people, from places like Sudan and Syria, in detention, destitution and permanent limbo.’

Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, said: ‘The Illegal Migration Bill drags any sense of the UK’s moral leadership on the world stage headlong into a gutter of hate.

‘In it, we have abandoned the principle of refugee protection, and denied that we have a duty to anyone else in the world.

‘We haven’t even done this to achieve any useful end, but revelled in sheer performative cruelty.’

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, said: ‘Disqualifying people’s asylum claims en masse regardless of the strength of their case is a blatant assault on international law and is a failure of UK leadership.

‘Ministers are using vulnerable and traumatised people for political ends – feeding the public misinformation about asylum issues, stoking resentment and division, and then pushing through ever more extreme measures to perpetuate the same policies that keep doing so much harm.’

A Liberty spokesman said: ‘The Act will force people into situations that threaten their lives – whether by placing children in detention or sending people off to countries where their lives might be at grave risk.’

Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, said: ‘We know that this Bill is deeply immoral and will be damned by history. No matter who we are, or where we come from, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.’

Downing Street has welcomed the passage of the Illegal Migration Bill but said the Rwanda policy must overcome its legal hurdle for the policy to be fully functional.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘This is an important part of our work to stop the boats, obviously it needs to be paired with the Rwanda partnership which is being challenged in the courts.

‘It’s right that we have this power in place so it can be utilised swiftly and we remain confident we will be successful in the challenge in the Supreme Court.’

The spokesman said when the Bill gets Royal Assent it will make ‘powers available’ to Home Secretary Suella Braverman to start detaining people but does not ‘require’ the move.

Downing Street also yesterday defended the use of accommodation barges for migrants, insisting it is a cheaper alternative to housing them in hotels.

Asked whether Rishi Sunak had a message to people in Portland, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: ‘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.

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

‘We think it is better to open specific sites designed to house immigrants that come in, done in a more planned way.

‘That’s what we are seeking to do with the Bibby Stockholm and that’s what we’re seeking to do in other parts of the country – opening up sites to take the pressure off local areas and to reduce the cost.’

The deal to send migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda has been mired in legal difficulties and will end up in the Supreme Court. It was last month branded unlawful by judges at the Court of Appeal.

With a backlog of asylum cases in the UK, the Government is also seeking to cut the cost of hotel bills by using alternative accommodation including the Bibby Stockholm and former military bases.

Councils and campaigners have been given the green light to bring a High Court challenge against housing migrants on the disused airfields.

Braintree District Council and a nearby resident are bringing legal action to challenge the use of Wethersfield in Essex to house up to 1,700 men while West Lindsey District Council is challenging similar plans for RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

Dozens of asylum seekers have already been moved into Wethersfield, and the Home Office has said that one man is being treated for scabies at the site.

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