First asylum seekers arrive on Bibby Stockholm barge


Some of the first group of asylum seekers have boarded the Bibby Stockholm barge with more arrivals expected today, Sky News understands.

Around 50 people were expected to move on to the vessel, docked in Portland Port in Dorset, on Monday following weeks of delays.

The Bibby Stockholm is one of a number of alternative sites the Home Office is using to end reliance on expensive hotels for asylum seekers, which the government says is costing £6m a day.

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The 222-bedroom vessel will ultimately hold 500 single males, with Home Office minister Sarah Dines suggesting the accommodation could reach full capacity by the end of the week.

Earlier on Monday, she told Sky News the barge “sends a forceful message” that people who cross the Channel will be housed in accommodation that is “proper…but not luxury” – claiming hotels are part of the “pull” factor attracting people to the UK.

But there has been considerable local opposition to the plan due to concerns about the asylum seekers’ welfare and the impact on local services.

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Labour has said the barges should not be necessary, calling on the government to get a grip of the backlog of asylum applications which are over 100,000.

Alongside the barge, the government wants to house people in military sites and marquees.

Multiple reports have also suggested the government is re-visiting plans for a processing centre in Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean if the long-touted Rwanda deportation scheme is not successful in the courts.

Ms Dines would not confirm or deny the plan but said the government was “looking at all options”.

This week is the government’s unofficial “small boats week”, where it wants to talk about its efforts to get a grip on the number of people crossing the English Channel on a small boat.

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