Labour would use barges to house asylum seekers for a ‘very short’ period while backlog is tackled, shadow immigration minister says
- Stephen Kinnock said former military bases would also continue to be used
- This comes as barge Bibby Stockholm is ready for asylum seekers to move in
Labour would use barges to house asylum seekers for a ‘very short’ period while the backlof is tackled, the shadow immigration minister has said.
Stephen Kinnock said former military bases would also continue to be used for a period of possibly around six months during work to bring down claims delays from a record high.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has previously indicated she would not be able to immediately shut down the sites but declined to be explicit about the policy.
Yesterday, Mr Kinnock told BBC Breakfast: ‘The reality is that we’ve got tens of thousands of people in hotels, we need to get them out of hotels and we need to get them off the barges and out of the military camps too.
Mr Kinnock said he cannot give a specific timeline as ministers work to bring down the decisions backlog from a record high of more than 172,000 cases.
Stephen Kinnock (pictured) said former military bases would also continue to be used for a period of possibly around six months during work to bring down claims delays from a record high
Yesterday, Mr Kinnock told BBC Breakfast: ‘The reality is that we’ve got tens of thousands of people in hotels, we need to get them out of hotels and we need to get them off the barges and out of the military camps too’
The Labour MP added: ‘Because of the complete and utter chaos and shambles of the Tory asylum crisis, we are going to have to continue in a very short-term period to use the infrastructure that is there, including the barges and the hotels.
‘We will be forced to use these contingency measures because of the mess the Government has made.
READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE – Welcome to life on the Bibby Stockholm: Migrants staying on barge will get hikes on the Dorset coast, allotments and cricket classes as video shows tour of ‘floatel’
‘I’m confident that within six months of a Labour government we will be getting on top of the backlog and clearing people out of hotels and putting them into suitable accommodation, or removing them from the country properly because they have no right to be here.’
Mr Kinnock also told Sky News that he was ‘deeply unhappy’ the barges would have to be used temporarily, adding: ‘This is the last thing we would want to be doing because we believe that people who are applying for asylum should be in appropriate accommodation.’
The Bibby Stockholm in Portland Port, Dorset, is the first barge the Government has procured to house asylum seekers while their claims are processed.
After a series of delays, it still has no migrants living on it amid continued safety fears centring on plans to house about 500 people on it – far over its original capacity.
But the first asylum seekers could be housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge as soon as this week as ministers push on with the repeatedly delayed plans despite safety concerns.
Around 50 people are expected to be in the first group of migrants to board the vessel docked in Portland Port, Dorset, despite local opposition.
The Government is also considering reviving plans to fly people who arrive by unauthorised means 4,000 miles to Ascension Island, according to multiple reports.
The proposals to use the British Overseas Territory are apparently being considered by ministers and officials as a ‘plan B’ if the Rwanda scheme fails.
Situated in the South Atlantic, the volcanic island could house an asylum processing centre as an attempt to reduce the number of small boats crossing the Channel.
The Bibby Stockholm will eventually host about 500 people at a time in Portland, Dorset – despite intense opposition from the local community
The plans to remove asylum seekers who arrive by unauthorised means to Rwanda have been stalled by legal challenges that will end up in the Supreme Court.
The developments came during the Government’s ‘small boats week’ in which it is making a series of announcements on the issue that Rishi Sunak has promised to solve.
Fines for employers and landlords who allow people who arrive by irregular means to work for them or live in their properties are to be hugely increased.
Civil penalties for employers will be increased up to a maximum of £45,000 per worker for a first breach and £60,000 for repeat offenders, tripling both from the last increase in 2014.
Landlords face fines going from £1,000 per occupier to £10,000, with repeat breaches going from £3,000 to £20,000. Penalties relating to lodgers will also be hiked.
Protesters outside the entrance to Portland Port in Dorset, where the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge is moored up
Dorset Council is receiving £3,500 per occupied bedspace on the Bibby Stockholm, with additional funding provided to the local NHS and police, the Home Office said
Protesters gather in Portland on Friday to protest against the controversial barge
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the Bibby Stockholm will accept its first occupants ‘in the coming days’ but refused to confirm whether they would move in as soon as Monday.
The Home Office did nothing to dampen suggestions the arrivals could come on Monday. Various expected dates have been given and then missed in the past, however.
Mr Jenrick offered a guarantee that it is a ‘safe facility’ after the firefighters’ union warned it is a ‘potential deathtrap’, citing concerns including overcrowding and access to fire exits.
‘We hope that the first migrants will go on to the boat in the coming days, I’m not going to give you an exact date – but very soon,’ he told Sky News.
He said increasing the numbers on the barge to the capacity of around 500 is still the plan despite concerns from the Fire Brigades Union over the vessel initially designed to house about 200.
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